The Millennium Cup, billed as the biggest tournament in Asia boasting a $150,000 winner’s purse, has been reduced to 13 teams after Iraq and Cameroon made late withdrawals.
Indonesia came with seven foreign players, which contravened rules that allowed only Indonesian players.
Indian soccer authorities said a complaint has been lodged with FIFA against Cameroon’s pullout.
But critics said the tournament was rapidly becoming a meaningless event.
“This tournament has become a farce. This is not good for football, people and sponsors will shy away,” said Babu Mather, secretary of IPFA and top Indian club FC Kochin.
AIFF could have invited fewer national sides, he said.
“They could even have brought five-to-six good European clubs and held a series of test matches which would have generated more interest,” he said.
The tournament’s schedules were revised on Thursday as three of the four league groups have been reduced to three teams each. In the fourth, Chile could not play their opening game as scheduled on Wednesday after their baggage was delayed.
“We have already lodged a complaint with FIFA against Cameroon. We were trying through FIFA to persuade them to come,” Alberto Colaco, secretary of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) which organised the tournament, said.
He said Indonesia were scratched from the event as they could not comply with AIFF’s request to fly in replacements at AIFF’s cost despite an offer to amend the draw.
New Zealand provided a hint of things to come when they pulled out last month.
The tournament comes after six top clubs formed a rebel body called the Indian Premier Football Association (IPFA) late last year demanding a major voice in running the national league.
The AIFF agreed to increase representation by clubs in its national league committee and said it was willing to consider demands for higher revenue-sharing.
The AIFF had said the Millennium tournament would boost the profile of soccer in India. But Colaco said AIFF had been let down by teams who had promised to bring major players.
India’s standing in the football world has shown a steady decline in the past few decades.
Gold medallists in the inaugural Asian Games in 1951 and fourth in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, they now stand 122nd in the world, according to the December’s FIFA rankings.