India were forced out of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup on Sunday after a dozen Covid-19 cases among their players led to the cancellation of a group match against Chinese Taipei minutes before kickoff here. Apart from the Covid cases, two players were also laid low by injuries. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said given the situation, Article 4.1 of the tournament rules comes into effect, which makes it clear that if a team fails to assemble for a match, it would be “considered to have withdrawn from the relevant competition”. All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel also issued a statement expressing sadness at the turn of events but surprisingly did not clarify the team’s tournament status. “We are as disappointed as probably the entire nation would be right now with this unwarranted situation,” he said. “However, the players’ health and well-being are of paramount importance to us, and it cannot be compromised under any circumstances. I wish all the infected players and team officials a swift and full recovery. They will be well supported by the AIFF and AFC.” India failed to name the required minimum of 13 players for the Group A match against Chinese Taipei before the game and there was no sign of the team at the ground even as the rivals warmed up. India were next scheduled to play China in their final group match on Wednesday but that is unlikely to go ahead now given that the team does not have enough players to field an XI. The knockouts start from January 30, making it nearly impossible for the tournament organisers to manoeuvre the schedule. As per Article 4.1 of the ‘Special Rules Applicable to AFC Competitions during the COVID-19 pandemic’, “If a Participating Team/Participating Club has less than thirteen (13) Participating Players (including one  goalkeeper) available for a match for any reason (whether or not relating to COVID-19), the relevant Participating Team/Participating Club shall not be able to participate in the Match. “Such Participating Team/Participating Club shall be held responsible for the Match not taking place and shall be considered to have withdrawn from the relevant Competition. The AFC said the tournament will continue to be played as scheduled with the group winners, runners-up and the two best third-placed teams qualifying for the quarter-finals.