According to a report by The Times of India (TOI), All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das claimed that India had to decline an invitation from organisers of Copa America to take part in the 2021 edition of the South American football championship after failing to convince Bangladesh and Afghanistan to play their World Cup qualifiers earlier in March-April.
The 47th edition of Copa America -- which was postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic -- is scheduled to kick off on June 11. AIFF mentioned that India were recommended for the tournament by Australia as their replacement after Australia could not make it due to various commitments.
"There were two Asian teams, Qatar and Australia, invited for Copa America. Australia couldn't make it due to various commitments. They actually then spoke to India and to CONMEBOL (South American Football Confederation), who were excited to get India. They were very interested in having us play," AIFF general secretary Das told TOI on Wednesday.
The Asian Football Federation (AFC) deferred the FIFA World Cup qualifiers from March-April to June and hence, India had to decline the offer of playing in the upcoming edition of Copa America.
AIFF general secretary also mentioned that they tried to pursue Afghanistan and Bangladesh -- the countries who are in the same group as India in the World Cup qualifiers -- to play the qualifiers in March-April.
"There were scheduling issues. The Copa America is in June and we were trying to see if the qualifiers could be played earlier in March/April. But it did not work out for some of the countries [in the group] like Bangladesh and Afghanistan," Das was quoted as saying to TOI.
India coach Igor Stimac also confirmed the chance for his troops to play in the Copa America alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez.
"We were all really excited. There was a chance for us to go there, instead of Australia. This would have been a wonderful experience. In the future, hopefully we will be invited," Stimac quoted as saying to TOI.