July 9 – The crisis in Indian football has reached the office of prime minister Narendra Modi. The I-League clubs have written to India’s head of state demanding a commission probe the functioning of the All India Football Federation Federation (AIFF).
The unprecedented move is a blow to AIFF president Praful Patel, who had tried to reconcile the I-League clubs with the governing body after the former complained of the lengthy delays in creating a new roadmap for the Indian game, which has been divided since the creation of the Indian Super League.
But Patel’s belated action was not enough to appease the I-League clubs, who have felt alienated by the AIFF. Earlier this month Patel reassured I-League clubs that they will be secure and promised to maintain the current status quo of two concurrent leagues for another two or three years. The I-League clubs accepted that proposal, but have now upped the ante by writing to the office of the prime minister.
In a letter signed by Mohun Bagan’s managing director Swapan Sadhan Bose, the I-League clubs have urged the prime minister to “intervene and save the sport”. East Bengal, Churchill Brothers, Gokulam Kerala FC, Minerva Punjab FC and Aizawl FC all joined Mohun Bagan in requesting the PM’s intervention.
“Recent media reports and press statements from the AIFF itself have indicated that the AIFF is seeking to make the ISL, which came into existence in 2013, the senior most league in the country, whereas I-League, that dates back to 2007 when it was launched as India’s first ever professional football league is sought to be made into a second tier and inferior league,” the clubs wrote in the letter.
“There is a sharp decline in the standard of Indian football. Football is one of the most popular sports in the world, including India, but this popularity has not been matched by necessary and good administration as far as the national body is concerned.”
The clubs remain concerned that the AIFF will make the ISL the top tier of the Indian game, which could signal financial difficulties for the I-League. In their letter to Modi, the clubs left little to the imagination. “The ISL is a purely commercial venture played by franchise-based clubs owned by the clubs. It has no relevance. More importantly, players invariably are in the 35-plus age bracket. Players who have no takers abroad are roped, leading to a decline in the standard of Indian football,” read the letter.
“ISL is just like the IPL of football and so the question that arises is how can a purely commercial league be made into the senior-most league of the country which has no international recognition or standing. It is a close which has no promotion or relegation.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1569073117labto1569073117ofdlr1569073117owedi1569073117sni@o1569073117fni1569073117