10:30 pm - Tuesday November 3, 2015

Three football clubs barred from I-League

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PANAJI: Indian football lost its heart and soul after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided to reduce the I-League to just ten teams, throwing out three clubs who failed to meet the stringent club licensing criteria.

Churchill Brothers, United Sports Club and Rangdajied United FC failed to make the grade when the First Instance Body, the AIFF’s club licensing committee, met at the Football House in the Capital on Wednesday.

All aggrieved clubs will appeal the decision and a final verdict is expected early next month. Mohammedan Sporting were among the “axed” lot but they were already relegated to the Second Division I League.

Now, there will be no place for them in the second rung either, while Royal Wahingdoh, who have just qualified, have been handed a one-year exemption in accordance with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) guidelines.

“On Thursday, we will send a detailed letter to the clubs, explaining how and where they have defaulted. They can appeal the decision,” said I-League CEO Sunando Dhar.

The six-member committee –none with any football background -which met on Wednesday is understood to have based their decision entirely on the inspection report by the AIFF team, at least one member of which was so tired by scouting the infrastructure of three of the four clubs in one city that he had no energy left to inspect the last remaining club.

“You must feel sorry for people like Churchill Alemao, Alokesh Kundu and Nabab Bhattacharya (of United SC). Their love for football is eternal and you cannot take away their right to be competing at the highest level simply because they have failed some financial criterias,” said one influential club official, “saddened” by the development.

Churchill Brothers and United SC, admittedly, have had financial problems last season, failing to pay their players on time.

The AIFF’s tough posturing has led many clubs to link it to their inability to complete the calendar.

With the Indian Super League (ISL) handed a 10-week window, the AIFF would struggle to accommodate a 13-team league -even more if new clubs come knocking -while fewer teams would ease that burden.

“The ISL has nothing to do with this decision,” explained Dhar.

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