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- Updated: May 3, 2017
Aizawl FC, prime relegation candidates who sprang one of the biggest upsets in the history of Indian football by winning the national football league, said they will approach the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and AFC president Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa if they are denied an opportunity to defend their I-League title next season.
Even though the heavy underdogs managed to win the I-League for the first time ever, football in India is going through a huge upheaval, with merger plans on-going between the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and IMG-Reliance.
It is speculated that the revamped Indian Super League next year will feature the existing 8 clubs from that league and an additional 3 from the I-League.
The team from Mizoram, though, is unlikely to feature in this list as it is not one of the most “popular teams” in the country.
In this rather unusual situation of a club getting relegated to the second division after being crowned champions, the side has threatened to resort to ‘world-wide protests’ or fast unto death if the AIFF sends them to the second tier.
A formal application was sent to the governing authority on Thursday by the club to allow them to play in the top division, but action is unlikely to be taken.
Instead, the AIFF is in talks with Bengaluru FC, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal to be the three clubs to join those in the ISL.
In a statement, the club said they had submitted a “formal claim to the AIFF to continue in the top league even after proposed merger of the existing top league with the ISL”.
“If no positive response is received from AIFF, the club will approach central sports minister, prime minister of India and also president of AFC,” the statement added.
The club added that in case those appeals also don’t work, they would resort to wide-ranging protests. “If all these steps are failed, the club will have no other choice but will resort to world-wide protests, sitting demonstration near AFC/FIFA offices, picketing of AIFF office, mass hunger strike/fast unto death protest.”
The mere fact that Aizawl won the league is so unprecedented can be accepted. But the fact that the governing body has made no prior plans to deal with such a situation is damning for the sport in the country.
Aizawl’s owner Robert Royte said on Monday that he expected the AIFF to include them in the ISL and would not accept any other decision. “How can the reigning champions be relegated to second division? We will not accept it, no chance. We will be playing in the Asian competitions. How silly will it be if the India’s champions are playing in Asia but back home, they are not allowed to play in the main league?” Royte said.