The apex body’s office bearer broke his silence on the ongoing issue in Indian football.
Since the 2018-19 domestic season came to a conclusion, the conflict between the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and several I-League clubs heated up at a rapid pace. After all, it is a matter of existence at the top level of Indian football for the clubs.
In their fight against the governing body, seven clubs from the league boycotted the Super Cup which led to a massive controversy. Not only did the tournament result as an absolute failure, but it will have, if not now, a huge impact on the footballing system in the country.
Amidst all the controversy, there was very less output from the top level officials of the AIFF regarding the issue. However, not anymore. The General Secretary, Kushal Das, finally decided to break his mum as he expressed sheer disappointment with the activities of the clubs. Speaking to IANS, Das made it clear that the aggressive stance taken by the I-League clubs would only complicate matters.
“The clubs are always free to give their opinion, but cannot malign the parent body. Statements like the AIFF is a sold out body and partial is absolutely not acceptable and strictest measures have to be taken.”
“At times, there are clubs, who, on a regular basis, bring the federation to disrepute by saying all kinds of things. That is something not acceptable. No federation in the world would tolerate these kind of things.”
It is believed that the move of boycotting the Super Cup was followed by a series of postponements in the meetings by the AIFF with the clubs, which forced them to do so. The Board’s president Praful Patel, though, had assured to conduct a meeting in April, but the clubs seemed reluctant against a further delay.
The matter has now been referred to the disciplinary committee, who will meet in Delhi on April 27 and 28 to decide on the issue.
“Instead of coming together to discuss the matter with the federation and our marketing partners, they (the clubs) have almost tried to rebel against the federation,” added Das, “That won’t help. They wanted to meet the president and the president always said he would meet them.”
“In fact, he was busy and was travelling. He sent a communication in this effect. He said he would meet them between April 10 and 15. Now he is upset that the clubs still rebelled against the whole thing and did not play the Super Cup. Not playing football is not a solution. That’s absurd.”
“By creating negativity, they are shooting themselves in the foot. Indian football has a long way to go and all stakeholders will have to work together to take it forward. Clubs have to be patient,” asserted Das.
As per the future plans of the AIFF, the Indian Super League (ISL) is supposed to be the top tier of Indian football while the I-League merging with it, however in ‘League One’ or simply the second tier. The issue with these plans was that there will be no promotion or relegation in the first four or five seasons after the move since the ISL clubs have a contract with the FSDL which states they will not face relegation whatsoever until a certain period of time.
This is what spurred a rage into the I-League clubs, who demand amendments in those plans.
“We do not have a system right now where when a team is relegated, they could be protected like the parachute payment, which is there in major European leagues. In India, the clubs have sponsorship, they have certain amount of investment, but if they are relegated, many of the sponsors may move away. We have to reach that stage before we introduce changes,” explained Das.
“There has to be a top league, followed by the next tier. There is no truth in some I-League clubs saying that they are being “killed”. While all the national team players are playing in ISL, I-League clubs are also developing players, the emergence of Jobby Justin and (Michael) Soosairaj are prime examples. They have now moved to ISL. The clubs have the scope to earn revenue by developing these players. In four-five years’ time, there could be relegation/promotion once the contractual obligations (in ISL) are over,” he added.