Don’t blame Indian clubs if they now budget for a contingency fund; one that helps them pay their way out of trouble. True, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) insisted that the decision is the first and last of its kind but given its disregard for rules of its marquee competition, would clubs be faulted for not taking that statement seriously? After showing the spunk to take on Mohun Bagan, this decision looks like an audacious self-goal.
And if you think Mohun Bagan being allowed to pay Rs. 2 crore for being rehabilitated in I-League 6 --- tournament rules stated a ban for two-and-a-half seasons inter alia and is consistent with those of the Asian Champions League --- was bizarre, hear this: it was what Bagan had suggested.
“It is respectfully submitted that…kindly lift the ban upon M/S United Mohunbagan Football Team Private Limited for this season and for such we are ready and agreeable for any other pecuniary punishment and/or compensation, as you and your committee may deem fit and proper,” Mohun Bagan had written in their appeal to the AIFF on Dec 31.
Even before this, India’s apex football body wasn’t exactly a template for vision and efficiency. It recommended for the Dronacharya award a coach who refused to play an international match, it has so far failed to make an example of state associations whose teams have been caught age-fudging, it has spectacularly failed in its deadline to set up academies and its biggest competitions, the I-League and the Federation Cup, aren’t deemed exciting enough by sponsors.
Beating the odds
Especially because AIFF president Praful Patel found no merit in Mohun Bagan’s stand, all these will seem like child’s play. That only one person at Tuesday’s meeting suggested that the original decision be upheld tells its own story about the AIFF’s executive committee. The rest endorsed this by exercising their right to remain silent, said one of the members who attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Patel mentioned Mohun Bagan’s glorious tradition, crores of followers and the larger interest of the game while explaining why the executive committee took “a somewhat lenient view.”
Fair enough but if the Serie A survived without Juventus, if the World Cup lived without Chile, if the Scottish Premier League kitted up without Glasgow Rangers (they were sent to the third division in 2012), the show would have gone on in the I-League too. Wonder why the AIFF didn’t go this route?
Meanwhile, all hail the return of Bagan. Since morning people were milling around the club that’s over a century old, some broke down overwhelmed that green and maroon will again be among the vibrant colours of I-League 6. They'll have to pay less than the equivalent of their top player's salary before that. They will have to give a written undertaking a promise to adhere to the rules.