New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) Praful Patel, All India Football Federation (AIFF) chief expressed happiness on being elected to the FIFA Council saying it meant more tournaments, international friendlies and exposure for Indian football, but regretted that the unified I-League clubs — even after his assurance — decided to boycott the Super Cup.
“Despite my assurance, they (I-League clubs) acted in a manner that is unbecoming of sportsmanship,” said Patel, the first Indian to enter the prestigious council.
On the February 18 letter by the unified I-League clubs to the AIFF requesting a meeting to discuss issues related to the I-League, he said, “What is the point of having this meeting now since they have pulled out of the Super Cup.”
The seven I-League clubs (Chennai City FC, Quess East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, NEROCA FC, Aizawl FC, Gokulam Kerala FC and Minerva Punjab FC) had on March 13 again wrote to the AIFF informing it about their withdrawal from the Super Cup, before the start of the tourney.
“We have together resolved to withdraw our respective teams’ participation from the upcoming Hero Super Cup 2019 due to the following reasons: (i) Our letter dated February 18 requesting General Secretary of AIFF to address the various issues of the I-League has not been responded to; (ii) no clarity of the I-League and its future; (iii) increasing inability to find financial sponsors in the absence of clarity of the League and its future; and (iv) lack of an agenda for the game at the grass root level,” the letter to the AIFF read.
Kushal Das, AIFF general secretary, replied to the unified I-League clubs on March 21, informing them that the AIFF president had agreed to meet and discuss the road map for Indian football between April 10 and April 15.
By this time the qualifying round of the Super Cup 2019, which started on March 15, was over and three teams — Minerva Punjab FC, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala FC — had withdrawn even after reaching Bhubaneswar, the venue for the Super Cup 2019.
In a gesture of solidarity, Debashis Dutta, Director, Mohun Bagan club, on behalf of the unified clubs wrote to the AIFF general secretary the same day expressing readiness to participate. But he put a rider that sought in a clause seeking restart of the competition and rescheduling of the qualifying rounds.
Finally, Real Kashmir and Chennai City FC broke away from the unified I-League clubs and participated in the Super Cup.
Thus, whose fault was it? Was it the unified clubs, which preferred to boycott a tournament for a cause? Or was it the AIFF, whose late reply aggravated the issue? Some questions remain unanswered.
(Jagannath Chatterjee can be contacted at [email protected])