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

Jaydeep Basu

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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.

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Meghalaya to face Bangladesh school in Subroto Cup boys U-17 final

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Subroto Cup

New Delhi: Hopewell Elias Secondary School of Meghalaya and Bangladesh Krira Shiksha Protisthan will face each other in the summit clash of the U-17 boys Subroto Cup international football tournament after they won their respective semifinals here on Sunday.

In the first semi-final, Hopewell Elias Secondary School beat BSL +2 High School of Jharkhand 3-2 to reach the final.today’s sports news

In the second semi-final, Bangladesh Krira Shiksha Protisthan defeated Gorkha Rifles Regimental Centre 5-4 on penalty shoot-out to make it to the final.

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Close contests at Subroto Cup U17 Junior Boys quarter-finals

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Subroto Cup
Action during Saturday's Subroto Cup competition.

New Delhi: On Day 7 of the U17 Boys category in the Subroto Cup International Football tournament, four quarter- final matches were held. The first quarter-final saw 11 Gorkha Rifles Regimental Centre, Army Boys defeat Tripura Sports School, Badharghat, Tripura 1-0, in a closely contested match.

In the other matches, BSL +2 High School, Sector II D, Bokaro Steel City, Jharkhand saw the better of Govt. Pukpui High School, Pukpui (Lunglei), Mizoram in a penalty shoot-out, after the match remained drawn 1-1 at the end of the final whistle. In the tie-breaker, the Jharkhand school edged past Pukpui High school 4-2 for the final scoreline to read 5-3.

In another closely contested quarter-final match, Hopewell Elias Higher Secondary School beat Bampather Bengenabari Higher Secondary School, Charaideo, Assam 1-0. In the international quarter final match Bangladesh Krira Shiksha Protisthan (BKSP) saw the better of Esteqlal School from Afghanistan 2-1. The semi-finals are to be played on August 27, 2019.

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Benzema inspires Real Madrid, Fati lights up Barca win over Valencia in La Liga

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karim benzema
Karim Benzema exults after scoring on Saturday.

Madrid: Karim Benzema scored twice for Real Madrid in a 3-2 win against Levante with Eden Hazard making his La Liga debut while later Barcelona breezed to a 5-2 win against Valencia with more magic from 16-year-old Ansu Fati.

Benzema’s goals came just six minutes apart in the first half at a wet Santiago Bernabeu, before Casemiro put Real 3-0 up.

However Levante, who had won their previous two outings, made a fight of it in the second half as they pulled goals back through Borja Mayoral and Gonzalo Melero.

Hazard also came off the bench for the final half-hour to make his first La Liga appearance after a thigh injury had interrupted the start of his Real career following his 100 million-euro ( 110 million) move from Chelsea.

The Belgian could now start when Real go to Paris Saint-Germain for their opening Champions League game on Wednesday.

Gareth Bale will also be available to face PSG after suspension kept him out here, but Sergio Ramos will be unable to play because of a European ban.

Zidane was also without the injured Luka Modric here. However, as well as Hazard, fellow summer signing Eder Militao came off the bench in the second half and the former Porto defender could start in Paris.

Fati scores again

Real would have won by a greater margin here had it not been for some inspired goalkeeping from Aitor Fernandez, who produced a stunning one-handed stop to keep out a Benzema shot midway through the first half.

Atletico Madrid retained their place at the top of the table, but only by one point from Real Madrid after their first defeat of the season when they lost 2-0 at Real Sociedad at the Basque club’s newly refurbished stadium.

Later, former Real Madrid assistant coach Albert Celades replaced sacked Marcelino Garcia Toral as boss of Valencia who were routed 5-2 at Barcelona.

With Lionel Messi still out and watching from the stands it was left to Fati, the teenager from Guinea-Bissau, to take the plaudits.

Fati, who became the third youngest La Liga scorer when he came off the bench to net in a 2-2 draw at Osasuna this month, scored again in the second minute, before providing the assist for Frenkie de Jong’s 7th minute goal.

The teenager earned his standing ovation from the Camp Nou crowd when he came off after an hour.

Kevin Gameiro got Valencia off the mark but a brace from the fit again Luis Suarez after a contribution from Gerard Pique meant Max Gomez’s injury time second for the visitors was purely academic.

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