Imagine Leicester City becoming Champions one season and are forced to play in the second division they very next. That’s a bit hard to digest, isn’t it? Well, that is exactly what seems to be happening in India with Aizawl FC.
North-East Indian team Aizawl FC managed to pull off a fairy tale season and were crowned the deserving champions of the I-League. But it looks as the champions might be forced to play in the second tier of Indian football next season. This shocking decision comes after the proposed plan to merge the I-league and ISL.
Not many countries have two big leagues that run parallelly. But India does. While the I-League is the National League of the country,(the pride of the nation, ISL is a private stakeholding competition which has gained immense popularity in the recent seasons. And the AIFF wants to cash into it. So they have decided to merge the two league and form one single competition.
This merger will have a lot of positives. Firstly the fans will be saved from two leagues and can devote their time on one single competition. Secondly, money will start flowing into the clubs as well as the players. And a lot of Indian players will get some much-needed exposure to international standards as well as players.
But having said all this they are a few drawbacks to this. The major one being that only a handful of the current I-League clubs will be allowed to join the new competition. The AIFF has literally cherry picked a few teams from the I-League. And unfortunately, Aizawl FC’s name is not on that list. Despite being the champions, India’s football governing body feels that Aizawl FC is not eligible to mingle with the big boys.
The AIFF have basically chosen teams from the I-League that have a large fanbase. Bengaluru FC, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, have all made the cut. But what they have forgotten is that Aizawl FC too boasts of a huge support base. Not many teams from the North-East have been very successful in the league, forget about being champions. And Aizawl’s win has virtually unified the whole of the North-East. The people there feel that this is their big ticket to come into the international limelight.
But their exclusion from the new league proves otherwise. It looks as if the AIFF has been so blinded by money and exposure that they have totally neglected the footballing aspect. They seem to have forgotten that football is all about passion and love for the game. The North-East belt is also famous for producing some of the most talented footballers in the history of Indian football. But sadly not of them matter to the AIFF.
Another shocking thing is the fact that none of the selected clubs has come out in support of the recently crowned champions. While just a few days ago most of them were found congratulating Aizawl FC on various social media platforms. The fans from various clubs have raised their concerns about the way the merger is taking place. But unfortunately, the fans voices are not strong enough. They never have been in India, sadly.
Aizwal FC have gone to various lengths to make their point come across. They have even threatened to go on a fast unto death until their demands are met. Unfortunately, we all know what will happen at the end of the day. Their protests will eventually die down and Aizawl FC may very well fade into oblivion. A few decades down the line will remember them just as a team who managed to win the league once.