Aizawl FC- A Tale of All That is Wrong in Indian Football

Saturday, 6 May 2017|Chirayato Banerjee
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Aizawl FC have scripted a fairy tale which is resonating across the nation. People have been hailing the Mizoram club for all the right reasons. From avoiding relegation to coming back and then winning the trophy in the next season- it has been a proud narrative for the minnows of Indian football.

What next for the spirited team of Khalid Jamil?

A long struggle has already ensued to keep the side in the top tier of the tournament. With the cash rich Indian Super League in the offing, a merger between the I-League and the IMG-Reliance tournament is imminent. Consequently, only one league will prevail at the top, with the rest demoted to the subsequent tiers. But for the induction in this unified league, a mandatory franchise fee of INR 15 crores (approx) has to be coughed up by the clubs.

This is where Aizawl FC have their task cut out as they brace for the ignominy of the ultimate form. Being the reigning I-League champions, the Mizoram club have to resort to extreme measures to retain themselves in the top league of the country. They have already sent letters to the All India Football Federation president, Mr, Praful Patel (AIFF) asking him to consider their instance. If that does not budge the situation, the club president has threatened to fast until death.

This is the current gory picture of Indian football. 

As we celebrate the 100th rank for our national football team, our top club faces the prospect of being demoted after winning the I-League. And yet, we crib when the Indian football team gets blanked against stronger Asian counterparts. 

Answers are in front of us as we sign online petitions, urging AIFF to put the interests of football at a higher stake than mere commercial perspective. It is disheartening to see the excerpts of the general secretary of AIFF where he plays down the situation, asking Aizawl FC fans not to lose heart if they get relegated to the second division.

At this juncture, it poses a relevant question for the football junta of this nation. Is it football which needs to be developed in this country or the mindset of money grabbing bureaucrats which needs to be tinkered?

Over the years, football as a professional sport has been making inroads in India. The number of fans is increasing. Live screenings, meet ups and other such initiatives have seen a steady influx of international footballers visiting our country. ISL has been the pioneer in this regard with their foresight and the strong financial prowess. As a result, the football fans of this nation will be forever indebted to the Reliance-IMG conducted tournament which has seen the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Alessandro Del Piero, Roberto Carlos, David Trezeguet among others, come and play in this country. 

But keeping everything aside, will these glorious names of the past generation be willing to participate in a tournament which overlooks real talent and puts the financial strength of a club at a higher pedestal?

NO.

Money and wages are important factors as can be seen today with the astronomical transfer fees paid by clubs to recruit players. But in these times, the power of football cannot be overridden by the commercial aspect of the game. Football as a sport will continue to be cherished even when a local club plays a friendly match against the neighbouring colony. There is no money, no fame when two local sides meet for a regular friendly game. But the beauty of the game keeps the stakes as high as it would be in a huge stadium, brimming with supporters.

If Aizawl FC eventually faces the axe for being unable to cough up the exorbitant franchise fee, it would be possibly the most shameful event in the history of Indian football. A team, comprising of raw, local talent, coupled with a few brawny foreigners, and an astute coach, beat all the odds and went on to win the country’s most coveted tournament. Instead of lauding their efforts and appreciating the same, our country’s football governing body plans to relegate the club to the lower division.

There hasn’t been any word of admiration from the top officials of the AIFF, applauding the spectacular achievement of the club. There hasn’t been any ceremony to honour the young boys who went on to achieve the impossible in such a short span of time. 

With a shoestring budget, Aizawl FC have shown the world that money cannot rule football. They have won the trophy along with the hearts of the entire global football community. Their heroics have etched a permanent place in the history of Indian football. The spirited footballers from the north-eastern club have left an indelible impression in our hearts. If they indeed go down, it will mark a tragic death of football in this country. 

In the end, it will always be a choice between the two decisions. Whether the business interests of ISL will hold sway or will it be the valiance of Aizawl FC which will be honoured? This will be the call of our top officials and we hope that the unthinkable will not happen and Aizawl FC shall be in the ISL fray.