AFC Meet: AIFF to face strong opposition from I-League clubs

All India Football Federation will face a strong opposition from the I-League Clubs at the Asian Football Confederation meeting in Kuala Lumpur. The I-League clubs are joining hands to form a united front to protect their status as the official football league in India, and safeguard their interests from the cash-rich Indian Super (Soccer) League.

The I League clubs will jointly oppose the AIFF plans to run I-League and ISL simultaneously for six months.

The AFC has convened a meeting of all stakeholders in Kuala Lumpur to chart the roadmap for the future of Indian football. Besides AFC general secretary Windsor John, who will chair the meeting, senior FIFA senior representatives will also be present. Seven of the nine eligible I-League clubs have deputed their representatives. Representatives of champions Aizawl FC, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Shillong Lajong FC, DSK Shivajians and Churchill Brothers SC are expected to speak against the AIFF’s recent proposal.

“Even the AIFF is on record that ISL is only a tournament. How can two leagues run simultaneously? You need to find a solution; the best is to merge both leagues and have one strong league of possibly 18 teams,” Times of India quotes Churchill Brothers CEO Valanka Alemao as saying.

Bengaluru FC’s chief technical officer Mandar Tamhane was the first to land in the Malaysian capital, and although his club has applied for the Bengaluru franchise in the ISL for next season, he wants clarity at the earliest. “We play our crucial AFC Cup knockout match in August, so we need to know the roadmap earlier than anyone else. We have to decide on our training schedule and players,” said Tamhane.

Football Sports Development Ltd, the body that organizes the ISL along with the AIFF, are favouring the addition of two more new teams and extending the ISL to six months. They also hope that one of the continental slot will be handed to the ISL champions. This possibility can lure-in Bengaluru FC.

The biggest protest is likely to be from Kolkata clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, both of whom are willing to play in the ISL but on their own terms. It includes, primarily, not paying an annual franchise fee of Rs 15 crore and continuing with Kolkata as their home turf.

The Football Players’ Association of India FPAI will also have an important voice at the meeting.