I-League remains our priority, merger with ISL will not happen this year, says AIFF president Praful Patel

New Delhi: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel on Tuesday took a veiled dig at Goan clubs for not having the required "bandwidth" to continue in revamped top tier league as they are "not investing" in football while providing excuses.

All the three Goan club owners -- Shivanand Salgaocar, Shrinivas Dempo and Peter Vaz (Sporting Clube de Goa) had taken united stand onto oppose the proposed restructuring that makes ISL a top-tier league and relegates I-League to the second division.

 I-League remains our priority, merger with ISL will not happen this year, says AIFF president Praful Patel

File photo of AIFF president Praful Patel. Image courtesy: Twitter/ @IndianFootball

"The clubs which have pulled out were not investing in football. They blame other reasons but the real reason is that they don't have bandwidth now to continue," the AIFF president did not take names but it was clear to everyone about the clubs he was referring to.

India's club football system was thrown into turmoil last year when former champions Salgaocar and fellow Goan side Sporting Clube de Goa withdrew from the current edition of the I-League opposing AIFF and IMG-Reliance's proposed structure for the new domestic season as the reason.

Late last year, another Goan club Dempo also pulled out of the national league.

Praful said that I-League is still country's premier national league and it remains AIFF's "top priority".

Talking about the much talked about proposed merger between I-League and Indian Super League, the president said that as and when it happens, it will be ISL that will "merge into I-League" and not the other way round.

"The merger between I-League and ISL won't happen this year. In future, if there is a merger it has to happen in the reverse way. ISL will have to merge with I-League not the other way round," Patel told reporters on the sidelines of the launch of inaugural Indian Women's League.

"I-League remains our priority because there can only be one nationl league. The name can be whatever, name is not important," he said.

Meanwhile with India hosting the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in little over eight month's time, Patel said the national federation will continue to extend all support to the host nation team to produce a decent performance in the mega-event.

"Whatever they (Under-17 team) want to do the AIFF will support. We have given them free hand. Under-17 is one team where we haven't held back anything. We are not interfering at all," the AIFF chief said.

"I only hope they make us proud. The country's performance should be recognised."

Updated Date: Jan 24, 2017 19:33:11 IST