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Why AIFF has lost the right to run Indian football

Jaydeep Basu

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The All India Football Federation has reduced the I-League to a non-entity.

New Delhi: Going through the latest press release from All India Football Federation (AIFF) is like listening to the Barry McGuire song. “The poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace, you can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace….

In its executive committee meeting on Tuesday evening, the AIFF, founded in 1937, has decided to hand over its biggest property, the national league, to a private enterprise, lock, stock and barrel. With this, they have certainly lost all moral rights to call themselves a government-recognised National Sports Federation (NSF).

In one stroke, the AIFF, led by its president Praful Patel, has reduced the I-League to a non-entity. It’s status, television coverage and standing in the Asian circuit is no more guaranteed.

The Indian Super League has been recommended to the AFC as the national league in the country by the AIFF.

Instead, the country’s new national league will be a tournament, on which the AIFF has no control whatsoever, be it selection of teams and players, scheduling of matches or framing of regulations.

A dramatic turnaround indeed, considering the fact Patel often called it a “entertainment tournament” in comparison to I-League, started in 2007 as country’s “first professional league.”

The stunning switchover, if sources are to be believed, came after Patel apprised the executive committee about a particular clause in a Master Rights agreement (MRA) signed between the AIFF and its marketing partners in 2010.

The draconian clause called for AIFF surrendering all its rights to dictate terms and conditions in running the league by its marketing partners. It also readily agreed, if needed, to close down the I-League, for the benefit of the privately-run league.

Well, AIFF can always turn around and say, “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.” But then, the problem here, is different. It is not about a typical left versus right dialogue, or, for that matter, the age old debate on public versus private enterprise.

The question here is simple; Can football in India be allowed to be monopolised by a single private organisation or multiple players should be brought in to make it more vibrant? Private players were always there but one had different choices – Dempo, Salgaocar, JCT, Mahindra, Kingfisher, Quess and so on.

The ISL was founded in 2014 by the AIFF’s marketing partners.

The present situation is absolutely baffling. No one is sure (not even within the AIFF) how some companies were brought in to raise franchises in the new national league. Since the bidding process always remained a closed one, the names of other interested players could never be known.

There were strong rumours of series of conflict of interest, like a franchise head is a close relative of a leading arm of the league organisers, but the AIFF was hardly eager to probe.

Worse is the allegations of fascist streak within the system. Try and control the process of supervision, the disciplinary issues and even matters referred to judicial sub committees. They often say when companies have a monopoly, the prices are too high and production is too low; also, there is always the danger of an inefficient allocation of resources.

Patel’s AIFF does not think so. The new national league, according to them, has done wonders in producing footballers for the national team, in grassroots and youth development. Alarming drop in attendance, failing to clear licensing criteria or conceding dozen goals in youth leagues were exceptions.

The AIFF, led by its president Praful Patel (centre), will have no control over the ISL’s organisation.

The term “new world order” is often used these days to refer dramatic changes in politics and balance of power.

The same can be said about football and the AIFF in particular. No national sporting body in the country has sold all its rights to national championships to raise money. Not even the much-maligned cricket board.

AIFF has shown the way. Now, it should now refrain from calling itself an old- fashioned NSF, which expects the taxpayers’ money should be used for its developmental needs.

Tuesday’s meeting of the AIFF executive committee takes us back to the Barry McGuire song again. “And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.”

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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