The Manipur-bsaed club have followed in the footsteps of league counterparts Minerva Punjab who had also threatened to close.
Due to the deadlock between I-League clubs and the All India Football Federation (AIFF), various clubs from the top flight have been feeling the heat. Now, NEROCA FC have announced that they will shutdown the club accusing the AIFF of favoring the rich clubs and highlighting how the Indian football scene is all about money and less about hard working clubs like theirs. If this is true, and the club does cease to exist, it will be a massive blow to the northeastern representation in the Indian football context.
In a Facebook post, the Orange Brigade announced that due to the fact they are having to play in the second division again, after putting in heavy investment and qualifying for the top division in 2017, there is no choice but for them to shut down the club. The statement also said that while they are not rich with money, they are certainly rich in footballing talent – however there is no longer any space left for them to continue to operate. Various attempts to reach NEROCA for further comment did not bear results.
The backdrop of this decision comes from the ongoing conflict between the I-League clubs and the AIFF, where seven clubs from the domestic league had backed out from the Super Cup, citing unfair treatment and the uncertain future of the I-League. This decision apparently caused hefty financial losses to the governing body and as a reaction, they are likely to impose sanctions on the dissenting clubs, including NEROCA.
Praful Patel, the AIFF President, has also further stoked the fire when he put a potential meeting with the I-League clubs in doubt. His statement read, “Despite my assurances, they acted in a manner that is unbecoming of sportsmanship.” This was after the AIFF General Secretary, Kushal Das had assured the I-League clubs a meeting with the apex body to sort out their grievances.
The runners-up in the 2017-18 edition of the I-League have now threatened to shut down, following in the footsteps of the 2017-18 I-League champions, Minerva Punjab, who have also threatened to close the club after their stadium allocation for the AFC Cup was revoked by the Odisha Sports Authority under the alleged pressure of AIFF and FSDL. Will other clubs from the Indian top division follow suit and shut down? In any case, this is a very unfortunate turn of events that could kill the spirit of the beautiful game in India.