With pre-season preparations for ISL3 in full swing at various cities in Europe and Asia, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has been forced to dish out more than double its spend on travel of players named for the international against Puerto Rico in Mumbai on September 3.
Usually, it would have meant issuing domestic flight tickets for all the players and one international ticket for Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who plays for Stabeak FC in Norway. For the first time, the AIFF has had to send tickets to eight players who are training with their ISL franchises in Italy, Spain, England and the UAE.
Four players for Northeast United FC will have to be flown to Dubai to join their teammates after the friendly, likely to be India’s only international match till March 2017. While Fulganco Cardozo will have to be sent to Rio de Janeiro where FC Goa will set up base from September 1.
Dhanpal Ganesh and Jeje Lalpekhlua, who are with defending ISL champions Chennaiyin FC, will fly from Rome on August 27 and leave Mumbai on September 4. Like they have over the past two seasons, Chennaiyin FC have been training in Italy.
Right-back Pritam Kotal will travel from Madrid, where Atletico de Kolkata will be based till the third week of September. Defender Chinglensana Singh and striker Arjun Tudu are with Delhi Dynamos, who are now in England and will play West Bromwich Albion on the day India host Puerto Rico. Mumbai City FC’s Pronay Haldar and Jackichand Singh will fly in from Dubai.
All this has led to a huge spike in the cost of flying the players in for the game. According to a source in the AIFF, it usually costs between Rs 3-3.5 lakh to fly players in and out of a venue in India. For next Saturday’s match, 13 international tickets alone are likely to cost around Rs 6 lakh. There are 20 players who need to be flown in from different Indian cities, so the total cost of tickets for players would be approximately Rs 7-7.5 lakh.
It would have been more had FC Pune City taken Eugenson Lyngdoh to Spain late last month. Lyngdoh and his teammates at Bengaluru FC will join their ISL franchises after the club’s engagements in the AFC Cup. Narayan Das and Lyngdoh, loaned from Bengaluru FC, will miss the first part of pre-season with new coach Antonio Lopez Habas, it was learnt.
Das is on loan from East Bengal and, as per agreement, is playing in the Kolkata league. So are Arnab Mondal, Bikash Jairu and Mohammed Rafique, all of whom have been asked by India coach Stephen Constantine to report in Mumbai.
FC Goa leave for Rio de Janeiro on Monday. So Cardozo will join his ISL teammates only after the match that will be played at Andheri’s Mumbai Football Arena where Mumbai City FC will also play their home games in ISL3.
Kerala Blasters will leave for Thailand on September 7. So Vinit Rai, Sandesh Jhingan and Rino Anto need not be flown to their training camp abroad. Northeast United players, including India’s newest Arjuna award recipient Subrata Pal, though, will travel to Dubai on AIFF’s expense because the team has already started training there.
The friendly against Puerto Rico is important for the AIFF and its commercial partners IMG-Reliance for two reasons. It brings international football to Mumbai after over six decades. And a win could help India’s Fifa ranking and get a better group in the second round of the qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup.