National football League sponsors ONGC are all set to make their debut in the second division of the competition as the All India Football Federation is keen on rewarding the organisation for its contribution to the sport and for the team’s performance in the Mumbai league.
Though a final decision on the issue will be taken during the AIFF’s executive committee meeting, dates for which are not yet fixed, sources have confirmed that ONGC’s entry into the second tier was a mere a formality. AIFF general secretary Alberto Colaco, who was in the city to inaugurate the Manchester United Premier Cup Under-15 tournament, confirmed to Hindustan Times that the apex body would be considering the proposal.
ONGC have so far won all their three matches in the elite division play-off of the Mahindra Mumbai Football League, and even if they fail to take full points against premier division sides Mahindra United and Air-India they will still finish as the third best team in their maiden appearance.
According to last year’s format for the NFL second division, twelve teams were divided into two groups. The top three teams from each group qualified for the final round, which saw Tata Football Academy and Churchill Brothers make it to the premier division this year. But since TFA opted out of the NFL, Hindustan Aeronautic Limited were promoted.
If the same format is followed this year, there would be two vacancies that would need to be filled since Fransa Pax, who along with Salgoacar were relegated, have been disbanded and TFA will not be allowed to take part in NFL 2. “It makes no sense to allow them to play since they won’t play in the Premier division even if they qualify,” Colaco said.
The AIFF secretary said the apex body might also consider other clubs to directly play in the second division but did not name any that are in contention. It may be recalled that the zonal qualifiers for NFL 3 were held last year and four teams from South, North, East and Central zone have been shortlisted. The qualifiers for the West Zone were not held and Colaco blamed state associations in the region. “No association came forward to host the event. What can we do?” ONGC officials were not willing to come on record on the issue.