AIFF’s incompetency leads to yet another I League ‘dropout’
Royal Wahingdoh FC is the latest club to take a decision on dropping out of the I League, following in the footsteps of Pune FC and Kalyani Bharat FC as a result of the All India Football Federation's 'lack of interest' towards developing football in the country. The football governing body's president Praful Patel had already expressed his lack of concern with clubs pulling out of the I League while AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das also made uninspiring statements, leading to a simple conclusion that the AIFF does not seem to have vision and ambition.
After the Shillong-based club confirmed its exit on November 21, the I League is now left with only nine teams (once DSK Shivajains decides on being part of the league), leaving a dark cloud looming over the future of Indian football. This comes as disappointing news considering India will be playing host to the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Royal Wahingdoh were fan favourites in last season's I League after they finished the league in third place (a major achievement considering it was their debut) but lack of financial support and eventual rewards is most likely the cause of I League clubs withdrawing from the competition. According to sources, the club opined that there is no clarity from the AIFFs point of view. Royal Wahingdoh will however, continue playing in the U-15 and U-18 I League tournaments, Shillong Premier League, and will focus on promoting women's football.
The All India Football Federation has failed to chart out a long-term plan to improve the state of football in a country where cricket is the predominant sport. Rather, it has appeared to the public eye that the federation is more interested in paying off salaries to its own people than creating awareness and developing football from the grassroot level.
President Praful Patel and the federation's lack of leadership and management skills towards building the future of Indian football is likely to force more player and clubs out of the supposedly 'most prestigious' football league in the country in times to come.
Introducing five or ten year plans in close coordination with I League clubs and other influential figures involved in the sport may bring about a hint of change in the AIFF's endeavour to enhance the sport. Now would be the time for the federation to start taking 'baby steps' before the love for Indian football slowly dies out.
In October, the AIFF had issued a tender notice inviting new clubs to feature in the 2015-16 I-League which is expected to commence sometime in January next year.