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More questions than answers despite AIFF beginning I-League on Nov 30

Jaydeep Basu

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East Bengal I-League
A packed Salt Lake stadium in a Kolkata derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.

New Delhi: Finally, All India Football Federation (AIFF) could agree on something concerning I-League.

The I-League for the 2019-20 season will begin on November 30. Clubs in I-League have heaved a sigh of relief. Not because the ball will start rolling. Because they feared the ball may stop rolling forever.

The announcement has not come without a rider. In fact, it has only added to the confusion. The clubs have no idea about the possible schedule. If the sources are to be believed, the I-League committee members themselves are not too sure about the detailed dates.

The confusion doesn’t stop with the schedule. There is no clarity about the television coverage of I-League. Federation’s official broadcasters have hardly shown any interest. They are clearly not over-enthusiastic about the product. Till date, there is no alternate taker.

Again, one has to fall back on sources. Unfortunately, though. AIFF is ready to oblige on other issues. From details of meetings of state associations to random MoUs signed across the world. Except on I-League. A deathly silence is maintained on any query on I-League.

After all, I-League is now officially The Second Division league of the country. Any query on its future is waste of valuable time. Perfectly understandable.

Sources reveal that a private sports channel has shown some interest in showing I-League matches. Another party, who could be not too expensive, may agree to handle the production. But nothing has been finalised. There is many a slip between the cup and the lip.

Well, the story gets interesting for two reasons. Not because I-League’s television coverage is in doldrums. Anyone having faintest idea on Indian football knows I-League doesn’t have pink and rosy cheeks.

What is surprising (?) is the laidback attitude of the AIFF. None in its top ranks moved a finger to find an alternate broadcaster for I-League. A particular club official took the pain of contacting a couple of private channels.

Well, someone has to do it, one can turn around and say. Moreover, this official himself offered his services during the crucial meeting in Kuala Lumpur on October 14. Agreed and accepted.

It still leaves a few questions. In the KL meeting, AIFF’s marketing partners said they were comfortable with I-League clubs trying to bring in their own broadcasters.

Yet, in the I-League meeting on Friday, an officer from the same company informed the members he would go back, discuss and convey the decision ASAP. Why this delay? Aren’t promises are meant to be broken?

chennai city

Chennai City are the defending I-League champions.

No point blaming certain federation officials. When bosses at the top plan to “go slow”, delays at every point is inevitable. The schedule was sent weeks ago for approval. Some people, somewhere sat on it. It left everyone in the dark, including the clubs.

True, all well that ends well. That the I-League is beginning is the lone silver lining in an otherwise gloomy scenario. In Friday’s meeting, there was all hands on deck except representatives of the participating clubs. Was it because they may pose a few tough questions?

But before the I-League starts, a few uncertainties are needed to be sorted out. Clubs were fined with much fanfare (not once, but twice) for “boycotting” the last season’s Super Cup. Clubs’ appeals are still lying with the appeal committee with no immediate solution in sight.

A particular club official was sent to the ethics committee for his 140 odd “objectionable” tweets. One still doesn’t know the outcome. Detractors say none of the verdicts could favour a particular lobby.

There is hardly any reason to believe in these unfounded rumours. Fans have all the faith in Indian football and its parent body!!!

Find more articles from our sports columnist at Jaydeep Basu.

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