The two teams were relegated from the I-League but were handed a route back in by the Indian FA…
Churchill Brothers and Aizawl FC, two former I-League winners, are among the six clubs who are currently up in arms against the All India Football Federation (AIFF), protesting the imminent move to grant the AFC Champions League qualifier spot to the Indian Super League (ISL) winners.
However, the stand taken by both these clubs should amuse the AIFF given that the two clubs are still continuing in the I-League courtesy of their mercy.
“We have contributed so much for Indian football, we have nurtured talent and we are all reputed clubs and you are telling us that we will be demoted to the second division, it doesn’t make sense,” Churchill Brothers CEO Valanka Alemao was quoted by News18.
And the clubs’ stance after their meeting with AIFF president Praful Patel was that they will not give up the AFC Champions League qualifier spot to ISL and wanted to remain as the top league.
The fact remains Churchill would not have been a part of the top league (which is I-League currently) if not for the Indian FA’s mercy at the end of the 2017-18 season. Churchill finished ninth in the league, just two points ahead of a young Indian Arrows team (which had immunity from relegation) and were set to go down into the second division.
However, after many appeals to the AIFF, the Indian FA decided to hand them a spot in the I-League again and increased the number of participating teams from 10 to 11.
“This is a very good platform to the youngsters to showcase their talent and something which is very important because at the end of the day Churchill Brothers have contributed immensely to the Indian football and generated a platform to the young football talent. I am very grateful to AIFF President Praful Patel (for reinstating us),” Valanka said after Churchill were given a spot back in the I-League.
The same case holds true for Aizawl FC as well. The crowning glory in the Mizoram-based club’s history was their I-League title win in 2017. However, the People’s Club were also relegated from the I-League in 2016.
Following a round of passionate appeals to the AIFF, they were re-instated in the top division and went on to script history by becoming the first club from the North-East of India to win the national league. Basically, their continued presence in the ‘top divison’ solely was based on the mercy shown by the AIFF’s Executive Committee.
The same holds partially true for Kolkata giant Mohun Bagan as well. The Mariners were given a two-year ban from the I-League in 2013 for abandoning a derby against East Bengal. However, after much pleading and manoeuvering, they were handed a way back into the top league after paying a penalty of Rs.2 Crore and a 12-point deduction.
Sources in the AIFF have indicated that they are miffed at the these clubs’ stance that entry to a top division league should be on merit rather than money. However, it must be noted that of the six rebelling I-League clubs, only East Bengal can claim to be in the I-League purely on sporting merits.