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Can I-League clubs fight an ideological battle against AIFF?

Jaydeep Basu



Seven I-League clubs, including Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, have threatened to move court against the AIFF and its marketing partners.

New Delhi: Minerva Punjab FC have won more titles in the junior and senior levels than any other outfit in the past three seasons. But recently, MPFC owner Ranjit Bajaj served a shocker on social media that could easily overshadow the club’s on-field activities.

He leaked out documents related to agreement (MRA) between All India Football Federation (AIFF) and its marketing partners. It does not enhance the reputation of the AIFF president Praful Patel and his executive committee.

The legalities of Bajaj’s action notwithstanding, it is a damaging revelation. So, let us not waste words on what Patel (often described as “accidental president”) has done.

It is now a public knowledge that for nearly 10 years, he has blatantly misled stakeholders and fans on status of I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL).

He often spoke about I-League being the country’s national league knowing fully well he was contractually bound to grant the position to the ISL.

I-League clubs have threatened to move court protesting against federation’s intention to declare ISL as the top league in its meeting on July 3. Now the question is can their arguments stand the scrutiny in the court of law?

A very senior AIFF official told this correspondent: “Our agreement with marketing partners is water tight. The clubs have no right to question it. We were never legally bound to consult them before signing the MRA.”

He is not far from the truth. But the question is, can a body, declared by both FIFA and government as the custodian of the sport in India, sell off the nation’s official league to a private party?

Specially, when the country’s national team is selected and its activities are largely influenced on the basis of the national league? If the documents uploaded by Bajaj on social media are remotely true, the AIFF soon have little authority on its own national league, clubs and footballers.

Let us take an example.

A particular clause in the agreement says: “The AIFF hereby warrants (as a material condition of this agreement) that the company will have the full and unfettered right and ability to establish the New League as the most senior and prestigious professional football league in India and the existing I League may, as a result of the introduction of the new league, be constituted, replaced and or/discontinued (temporarily or permanently) and to exploit the New League Rights in the manner contemplated by this agreement (subject to the right of AIFF to be consulted and make representations in relation to the New League as contemplated in schedule 7) including without limitation that the Company shall be entitled without any additional payment other than the Fees and without AIFF infringing any third party rights of any kind whatsoever (whether of the clubs or otherwise) to decide upon the format, rules and structure of the league and the teams and players which will compete in it.

“In addition the AIFF shall not pass or allow to be passed any rules or regulations of any kind which would or might impede the establishment of the New League by the Company.”

There are many more such clauses in the MRA, easily available on public domain, thanks to Bajaj. It is a chilling example of how a national sporting body can sell itself off to a private party and can still approach the government for financial assistance in various matters.

Insiders within the AIFF argue they had no option but to sign the MRA in 2010 since the previous marketing and broadcasting partners had stopped paying and demanded an exorbitant amount to implement the exit clause.

True, but in that case, the rest of the stakeholders should have been consulted even if they had no solution to offer. At least the current mess could have been avoided.

The worst part of the story is a constant effort (from within the AIFF) to show I-League and its clubs in poor light. If spectators do not turn up for ties involving Chennai FC or Minerva Punjab or television viewership dips for Gokulam FC matches, it only reflects the poor state of affairs in the I-League, which should be stopped.

If the average attendance for a franchise outing is less than 1,000 in a particular match or season, then the public address system makes an inflated announcement, all in presence of the AIFF officials.

It is time to brace for a battle on ideological grounds than to go into nitti-gritties of the MRA. Will the country’s football federation remain a public body or be run by people, whose sole motive is to generate profit?

If the second option becomes necessary, then government and Sports Authority of India (SAI) should withdraw all its benefits as per sports ministry guidelines.

But then, the problem is can the I-League clubs handle this in the court of law? Given their past records, they are known to an opportunistic bunch, who do not generally see anything beyond self-interest. Perhaps, they have bitten off more than they can chew.

An online social media campaign has started in favour of the I-League.

Football Lounge

India suffer another big defeat in Intercontinental Cup



India next play Syria in their last group league match on Tuesday.

Ahmedabad: India’s desperate attempt in the second half wasn’t enough as they went down 2-5 to DPR Korea in their second match of the Hero Intercontinental Cup at the EKA Arena.

With two losses in as many games, India still have a chance of making it to the final, provided they beat Syria by a huge margin in their next match, and hope Tajikistan beat DPR Korea in the other.

While Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Sunil Chhetri scored one each to reduce the margin for India, DPR Korea captain Jong Il Gwan was the star of the show scoring two, and assisting another. Furthermore, Sim Hyon Jin, and Ri Un Chol, and Ri Hyon Kin scored one apiece for the winners.

Indian national team head coach Igor Stimac said that there was “courage, and confidence on display in the second half.”

“In the second-half, we came out with out with heads up. We had the courage, and confidence when we decided to play football. In the first-half, we played without courage and self- confidence,” he stated in the post-match press conference.

“I gave the players the chance to play for India and asked them to enjoy their football. But if you do not show courage, and fight you cannot win,” he added.

“In the second-half, we started taking responsibility, and created chances. We were dangerous in front of their goal. But it was difficult to keep shape, and go up and down continuously. But I’m proud of the way they played,” the Coach explained.

Down 0-3 in the first half, a couple of changes by India Head Coach Igor Stimac at half-time brought back the thrust for India. The introduction of Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Udanta Singh in place of Manvir Singh, and Brandon Fernandes provided India the much-needed impetus.

The Blue Tigers pulled one back soon when Sunil Chhetri latched on to a stray ball, and played Chhangte through the channel. The latter, took control, and smashed it into the bottom corner. However, Ri Chol soon added a fourth for Korea, after being played through by captain Gwon.

In the 71st minute, Sunil Chhetri managed another one for India – his 71st International goal off a cross from Udanta.

India next play Syria in their last group league match on July 16.

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Football Lounge

Barcelona sign Griezmann transfer from Atletico Madrid



Barcelona: Barcelona have announced that they have signed French forward Antoine Griezmann on a five-season contract.

The announcement came after the player’s international representatives paid his 120-million-euro buyout clause included in his contract with Atletico Madrid at the LaLiga offices.

“FC Barcelona has paid the 120 million euro buyout clause to release Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid,” the Catalan club said in a statement on its website on Friday.

“The player will sign a contract with his new club for the next five seasons, through to 30 June 2024, with a buyout clause of 800 million euros.”

The 28-year-old could be unveiled to the media and fans during the weekend so that he can join the team for the first pre-season training session scheduled for July 15.

This is Barcelona’s third signing for the new season, following midfielder Frenkie de Jong on a move from Ajax and goalkeeper Neto who joined Barcelona from Valencia.

It came a year after Griezmann turned down an offer by Barcelona and his refusal was revealed in a controversial documentary produced by Barcelona’s Spain defender Gerard Pique.

He preferred to stay at Atletico and renew his contract with the capital team, an agreement that included a substantial salary raise.

However, it did not close the door for his potential departure as the 200-million-euro buyout clause was reduced to 120 million as of July 1.

Twelve days later, Griezmann became a Barcelona player.

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Football Lounge

FC Goa sign winger Alex Romario Jesuraj for three years



Alex Romario Jesuraj along with Ravi Puskur, Head of Technical Operations at FC Goa.

Panaji:  Winger Alexander Romario Jesuraj has joined FC Goa on a 3-year-deal, which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2022.

The 22-year-old made 34 appearances for I-League side Chennai City FC across the previous two seasons, ending 2018-’19 with a winners’ medal. The flying winger is widely considered as an exciting player, scoring four goals for CCFC, earning the sobriquet of “Namma Neymar Romario” (Our Neymar Romario).

Named after Brazilian legend and FIFA World Cup winner Romario, the winger from Dindigul broke into the Tamil Nadu Under-16 team at 13, also earning himself a place in the India Under-13 camp. He started his senior level career at Arrows FC in the Chennai Football Association Senior Division before switching to I-League side Chennai City FC.

Romario was happy to join FC Goa and reserved words of praise for their style of football. “I am very excited to join the best club in India. I watched them play last season and understood that this is the type of football that I wanted to play.”

Ravi Puskur, Head of Technical Operations at FC Goa, said, “We are very pleased with the capture of Romario, adding to the roster of highly talented Indian youngsters at the club. He is an exciting winger who is very dynamic on the pitch. He is also a proven winner, having won a league title at a relatively young age.”

The Tamil Nadu winger will be sent out on loan to Mohun Bagan for the upcoming season.

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