The current I-league Champions- Aizawl FC can sigh a relief. The much-anticipated merger between I-League and the IMG-Reliance owned Indian Super League (ISL) has been put on hold. The decision was made following a meeting between the All India Football Federation (AIFF) officials and representatives of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal at AIFF President Praful Patel’s residence in Mumbai. I-League CEO Sunandho Dhar, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das and AIFF Vice-President Subrata Dutta were also present at the meeting.
The future of the Indian domestic football has been up in arms in recent times following the inception of the ISL three years ago. The AIFF has been mulling a restructuring of domestic football into three tiers from this year. And the organisation have also tried to get ISL recognized by FIFA but in vain.
The issue got more muddled in recent times after a senior official of the AIFF suggested that newly crowned champions Aizawl FC might have to play in the second division next season. And following this, Aizawl FC claiming their rights threatened to go on a hunger strike. However, the AIFF tossed out their threats by putting a halt on merger.
“We have been assured by the AIFF president that the I-League would stay the official league. We would then expect that I-League champions would, therefore, play in the Asian Champions League qualifiers,” said Debasish Datta, Mohun Bagan’s finance secretary.
The club officials were told that in the interest of football in India something needs to be shared with the ISL franchises, who too have put in a lot of money. It is, therefore, possible that champions of a new tournament, called the Super Cup, would represent India in the Asian Champions League (ACL) qualifiers. Hitherto, that privilege was accorded to I-League champions.
Earlier Mr Robert Romawia Royte told Inside Sport, “ Aizawl FC was not intimidating or threatening AIFF, it was rather a democratic way of claiming the Champions right to defend the title trophy.”
The club has been waiting for the AIFF’s response and was hopeful for the best. And it seems that things are going the right way for them now. “We are happy and we also welcome the 7-month ISL as it will certainly streamline players registration system. If the system continues like this, sponsors will certainly prefer I-league; players will follow suit,” he added.