All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel lashed out at I-League 2017 champions Aizawl FC on Friday for "making threats" against Indian football’s governing body.
"Aizawl was relegated in 2016. It was the AIFF which saw their passion and let them play the I-League as a special dispensation. They did well, they won. I congratulate the team and everyone who is related to Aizawl's successful march. And it is the AIFF which has supported them. If the AIFF did not support them then they would not be playing in the I-League,"
"They should be the last people to be talking about this. What they are doing is unfair and unjust. Some threats are being issued by them. AIFF does not get intimidated by any threat. AIFF works for the good of Indian football,” Patel told reporters on Friday, at the sidelines of the WIFA Just Play festival at Mumbai’s Cooperage Stadium.
Having won the I-League on Sunday – in what was seen as a surprise outcome – the Aizawl-based outfit may not even be able to defend their title next season if the alleged plan of the AIFF is implemented, where both the I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL) will be merged.
According to reports, all eight teams in the current ISL will be a part of the restructured league, while only three clubs from the I-League – believed to be East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC – will become a part of the league, while other teams will be relegated to the second division.
This proposal forced the North East club to write a letter to the AIFF, which subsequently became public, where the club stated that if they were to be relegated to the second division, they would "resort to worldwide protest, sitting demonstrations near AFC/Fifa offices, picketing of AIFF offices, mass hunger strikes/a fast unto death."
To this, Patel responded by saying: "You can only complain when something happens and you have some issue about that. You cannot complain about a hypothetical situation. And if they want to complain and shout, let them. We will not be threatened."
Patel said he was yet to receive any letter from Aizawl FC. "They have sent some letter to me, I have not yet received the letter because they won the I-League three days ago. Moreover, the roadmap for the future of Indian football has not yet been decided. And since they are the winners of the official league, they will qualify for the AFC Cup. Let them play, we will be happy to see an Indian club move higher on the Asian ladder. On that front, they are to be fully complimented."
Patel, however, skirted a question about when the roadmap will be decided upon. "Till a new road map is decided, the old road map will continue. Nothing is decided today (as of yet). Without anything being decided, today, as we speak, I-League is the official league of India," he said.
"In the future, every club has to support its funding. We do not come into the picture. AIFF has no role in club structure, the financing of the club, the running of the club is purely their own domain," Patel added.
Aizawl’s protests led to Sports Minister Vijay Goel to state on Friday that he would talk to AIFF about the issue.
Updated Date: May 05, 2017 21:15 PM