East Bengal during a visit by the two-member FIFA-AFC delegation has called for an 18-team single football league in India. The club also emphasized that they cannot be written off just that they don’t have big money to meet the deep pockets of the ISL clubs.
“We said (to the FIFA and AFC members) we want one single league operating with 18 teams which will have promotion and relegation system. We also told them about the club’s legacy and our contribution to Indian football in the past 98 years,” said the East Bengal club official Debabrata Sarkar.
The two-member FIFA and AFC join team had visited the Big Three Kolkata clubs – Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting. FIFA member Nic Coward and AFC’s Alex Phillips were accompanied by AIFF representatives Sunanda Dhar and Chirag Tanna. The visit was aimed at tacking a stock of facilities and infrastructure at the clubs.
East Bengal categorically warned the two-member delegation to not to write them off even if the club did not enough money to match the ISL franchisees.
“Yes we have no money, no sponsors but just because we don’t have the money you cannot write us off. They will have their conclusion as per reality. But we tried our best to negotiate. We won’t bow down at any cost,” Times of India has quoted the East Bengal assistant secretary Shanti Ranjan Dasgupta as saying. “We will keep the club’s heritage high, safeguard the interest of East Bengal. There’s no room for compromise.”
FIFA-AFC is taking up a market research to prepare a blueprint of Indian football roadmap by October-November for making the “one nation, one league” dream a reality by next season.
This season the merger of ISL and I-League had failed as the Kolkata’s heritage clubs had expressed their inability to pay the INR 15 crore franchisee fee.
FIFA and AFC officials along with the AIFF representatives also visited Mohammedan Sporting Club and Mohun Bagan. The Big 3 Kolkata clubs unanimous in their call that when a roadmap for the future of Indian football is prepared, their legacy and contribution to the game should not be ignored.
The FIFA-AFC representatives are scheduled to meet officials from all the leading clubs in India and conduct a market survey to generate valid inputs for their draft report, to be presented to FIFA in two months’ time.