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How I-League clubs are being nudged towards slow death

Jaydeep Basu

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I-League clubs have accused the AIFF of step motherly treatment towards them.

New Delhi: Please have a look at the sequence.

May 20, 2019: The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) emergency committee meets in the capital at the residence of its president Praful Patel. A decision is taken to open bid for induction of at least one new I-League.

May 26, 2019: National coach Igor Stimac says I-League has the tradition that money cannot buy.

June 15, 2019: The AIFF’s disciplinary committee meets in Kolkata. It decides to slap a fine of Rs. 27.5 lakh each on six I-League clubs for not participating in Super Cup. This is over and above the heavy fine imposed earlier for the same reason.

June 15, 2019: Mumbai based U-Mumba club announce they are suspending their trials to recruit footballers on the advice of AIFF. The outfit were widely tipped to join I-League.

June 17, 2019: Indian Super League (ISL) franchise outfit FC Pune City announce they are not shutting down. They may switch to another city.

Well, this is only a simple order of events happened in Indian football in the past one month. Let’s not make an effort to join them together and form an opinion.

But then, there is no doubt that any attempt to have a new team in I-League has been temporarily halted. A senior AIFF official said a process has to be followed.

“We have received a letter from our marketing partners. They have very rightly pointed out that as per the agreement, they have to be informed officially in case we plan to induct a few team in the I-League.

“Let us also make it clear that no one has even minutely hinted of putting a bar on us in having a new team. We will follow the process as and when we decide to have another team in the league,” the official said.

Interestingly, another piece of information came up from another source. A section in Indian football was interested to see U Mumba invest money for a club in the franchise based league. It didn’t happen. The reasons are not known.

I-League clubs were previously worried about being reduced to second division clubs. Now they are mainly concerned about existence. They are moving to the AIFF’s appeal committee to reduce fines, which may take away chunk of their annual budget.

If appeals are turned down, some of them may have to put the shutter down.

At the end of this month or early next month, AIFF executive committee is set to meet and act as per its agreement with marketing partners. The franchise based league will be declared the country’s main league.

“Again that is part of agreement. Legally, we are bound to make it official,” said a senior functionary.

To lose the tag of main league means losing the AFC Champions League qualifier spot. The AFC Cup spot is likely to go to winners of the Super Cup.

I-League clubs must heave a sigh of relief. They never have to worry about recruiting right number of foreigners for continental tournaments. There won’t be any live telecast and there are proposals to play I-League on regional basis.

Well, Igor Stimac was right, but only partly. Money cannot buy tradition. It can certainly kick you out of the market.

Football Lounge

India suffer another big defeat in Intercontinental Cup

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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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Barcelona sign Griezmann transfer from Atletico Madrid

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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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FC Goa sign winger Alex Romario Jesuraj for three years

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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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