Aizawl FC camp has little to celebrate about its I-League success. The occasion of celebration is eclipsed by the struggle for survival. Immediately after reaching the pinnacle of Indian soccer, Aizawl FC seems to be staring at the ‘valley of death’.
In any league structure the champions crown comes with numerous privileges. Not for I-League, though. Such are the designs of the All-India Football Federation and their commercial partners Reliance IMG, that I-League crowned champion Aizawl’s existence in the Indian national soccer league is under threat.
The Aizawl FC club owner Robert Romawia Royte in an Exclusive Interview with InsideSport.co revealed that the he will sacrifice his life to protect his team’s rights. Here are the excerpts.
InsideSport: First of all congratulations on winning I-LEAGUE. But the joy and celebration seems to be short-lived. What is the reason for you being so upset with AIFF ?
Robert Royte: We are the champions of INDIA. Champions of the official league of AIFF that is the league recognized by FIFA. As champion club of India we will be representing INDIA in AFC CUP. Just imagine, we are the champions of INDIA and still no place for us in the UNIFIED LEAGUE (AIFF and Reliance IMG plan to merge the I-League and ISL). Why are talks of demoting us to the second division. Why can’t AIFF see the value we bring to the table. Why AIFF can’t take care of their champions. Why we should suffer when we are the winners. ISL is a tournament, how ISL can be the first LEAGUE. We will be protesting against this. We can’t be demoted. As champions we need to be part of the top tier LEAGUE, not the second division. AIFF is trying to say that India is going to be represented in the continental club championship by a second division team? This is no less than joke.
IS: You said you will be protesting ? How?
RR: Yes, our club supporters, Aizawl FC fans are very upset with this uncertainty. We will go to the extent of doing demonstrations, will do hunger strike or will fast to death if we are not given our dues. Mizos are very peace loving and passionate people. We love our football and especially our club. Any ill treatment to our club will not be taken lying down. We can’t be let down by AIFF. Protests are not only gonna be in MIZORAM, but also by Aizawl FC fans in Rangoon, where Mizos form a considerable number of population. We will not hesitate protesting in front of FOOTBALL HOUSE in DELHI so that AIFF can relate to our pain.
IS: Any communication from AIFF side or from your side?
RR: No one from AIFF has communicated with us till date. We have tried reaching out but no communication at all from AIFF. On Tuesday we wrote a letter to AIFF raising our concerns and requesting them for window for dialogue. We can’t afford the ISL (franchisee) fees. That should not deprive us from participating in the top tier league. We have documented all our concerns in the letter, hope they respond amicably.
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IS: But there are murmurs that AIFF is actively discussing with some other I-LEAGUE clubs ?
RR: Yes we have also come to know about it. This creates more heartburn. We have been told they are meeting bigger clubs like East Bengal, Mohan Bagan and Bengaluru FC and some way forward on their participation in the unified LEAGUE is being discussed. Just imagine, we are the champions and no one has spoken to us and they are talking to these bigger clubs.
IS: How are your players reacting to this situation ?
RR: My boys are very upset with all these developments and talks. They in fact wanted to stand by the club side in the demonstrations but we don’t want the players to get involved in any politicking. But the boys are deeply hurt. Hope we soon hear from AIFF.
InsideSport has reported earlier that the Mohun Bagan and East Bengal had written to the AIFF for waiver of Rs 15 crore ISL franchisee fee. A tough consideration for any league model in India to survive. For Aizawl, the challenge is bigger. This was the time when they needed better training facilities, better revenues to retain their champion players and better exposer. The bright present is overshadowed by an uncertain future. Any disappoint to Aizawl at this crucial juncture will cast doubts in the minds of other soccer nurseries in the country. It is important that good sense prevails. AIFF and Aizawl management need to work together in the interest of the game.