The Red Machines have been one of the lynchpins of Indian football for long.
Goa’s Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mediation in examining the plea of Churchill Brothers to retain the club’s position in the top league of the country, specially considering the interest of young football players and also providing protection to the traditional clubs with a highly valued history in Indian football.
The Chief Minister’s prompt action was a follow-up of the meeting with Churchill Alemao, President and Ms. Valanka Alemao, CEO of Churchill Brothers FC.
Fully supporting the Churchill Bros’ plea, the Chief Minister perused the letter addressed to the Prime Minister, wherein Churchill Bros FC along with many other I-League clubs had sought the PM’s intervention to save Indian football, especially that of the Goan club which has been the torch-bearer of Goa and Indian football for the past four decades and more.
Grasping the matter quickly and eager to protect the interest of football and Goan football players, the Goan Chielf Minister stated, “Football is a sport that singularly connects every Goan and invokes a sense of passion. Goa has given illustrious football legends to the Indian sports arena. I request the Prime Minister to consider examining the matter put forward by Churchill Bros FC, which is one of the premier clubs in the State of Goa,” stated the Chief Minister.
Driving home that football runs in the blood of Goans and the fact that Goa has declared football as its national sport, Dr. Pramod felt that the “PM’s intervention in the matter would ensure that the lawful rights of the players and patrons of the sport in the State are safeguarded.”
In its submission, Churchill Bros FC’s CEO, Valanka Alemao, stated that the club were the champions in the I-League twice and the Federation Cup and runners-up of I-League thrice. The Red Machines had earned the distinction of representing India in the AFC Cup championship due to its superlative performance and presently is the only Goan club in the I-League after the withdrawal of other acclaimed Goan teams – Dempo, Salgaocar and Sporting Clube de Goa.
“We have been providing a pan-India platform for talented players from Goa, other parts of India and even from abroad to showcase their talent with especially the Goan football players gaining the much-needed experience and exposure which catapults them for higher and bigger events at national and international levels. As of now, we are the torch-bearers of Goan football in the National League and as such we must continue enjoying the pride of place especially for the sake of Goan players. The I-League has been the top division league in the country and the status needs to be maintained at all costs. Even AFC and FIFA have acknowledged this fact,” reasoned Valanka.
“The ISL is a commercial championship without a system of promotion and relegation as required by FIFA statues under its Sporting Merit clause. It is more like the IPL in cricket, a closed-league, there being no culture of Indian football. There is no legacy. The AIFF is dependent on the finances to sustain itself and as such it entered into a Masters Right Agreement (MRA) in 2010 with IMG-R which affects the rights of the I-League clubs as it has been contemplated in the agreement that the ISL would be made the senior most league in preference to I-League which would eventually be displaced to the ordinary or no status at all,” explained Valanka.
“The IMG-R is a private business entity which has launched franchise-based clubs, which are not part of and have nothing to do with, the rich history of Indian football. The top-tier league in the country was launched in 1996, christened as National Football League (NFL) and in 2007 re-branded as I-league as India’s first ever professional league and as such enjoyed the status of India’s top-tier league. It was only in October 2013 that ISL came into existence, with many alleging that it became a necessity due to financial constraints,” added Valanka.
“The road map for Indian football is what the traditional clubs have been asking for. It is because of this exact reason – the lack of clarity on the road map for Indian football – that Dempo, Salgaocar and Sporting Clube de Goa withdrew from the league. And now the onus has fallen on Churchill Bros to safeguard the interests of Goan football players, as football is today a means of livelihood for most of the players what with more and more youngsters being attracted to it also from the employment point of view that also encompasses coaches, physios, professional managers, administrators, and several others. Consequently, lowering the status of the I-League would mean diminishing the returns especially for the professionals,” the Churchill Brothers CEO further added.
Valanka expressed her club’s gratitude to Chief Minister Dr. Pramod Sawant for promptly accepting the request to save the interest of Goa and Goan footballers and promote proper ecosystem to nurture young talent as future stars of Indian football.
Churchill Alemao, while praising the Chief Minister for initiating quick action in the matter, stated that Dr. Pramod had understood the urgency of the matter and that the Chief Minister had grasped the subject, promising that sports and especially football would be given due priority and attention since it involved the youth.