Is the ISL a creation of a failed I League, is the MRA legally correct? asks, Kanthi D Suresh

It seems the doldrums in Indian football is perpetual as none of the wrangling ISL and I-League clubs are willing to budge from their claims of being the premier league in the country. Tension within Indian football is only escalating as both the leagues want to represent the country at the AFC Champions League.

This was the topic in the latest episode of “Talking Turkey with Kanthi” on Power Sportz—Indian football. Show host and Editor-in-chief of Power Sportz, Kanthi D Suresh tried to delve into the issues and dissect what is plaguing football in India.

Too much revealed on the show

Guests who joined the debate this week were Jaydeep Basu, a senior journalist who is also an eminent football writer and Shaji Prabhakaran president of the Delhi Football Association. Too many facts came to light as the sports debate show progressed.

Although Indian football is slightly better than it was in 2014, it still has a long way to go to measure up against Asian counterparts. To become World Cup ready, Indian football needs to take long strides rising above and settling these internal woes, the panel opined.

The war within Indian Football

Both ISL and I-League yearn for that top-league spot in the country and as a result, football is suffering in the country. On top of it, money governs and dictates who take the lead. I-League clubs rue the fact that preferential treatment is given to ISL because they are backed by companies who infuse funds into the federations.

Shaji Prabhakaran said that the fundamental issue lies with running two leagues concurrently. It is a mistake, he says. The other participant Jaydeep Basu stated that the AIFF has deceived the people of India by sweeping so much information under the carpet. He said that Mr. Praful Patel kept the people of India in the dark for too long.

AIFF has a different viewpoint

However, AIFF feels that since more players of the national team play in the ISL, it should be declared as the topmost league in the country. Another important criterion the national federation fields is the TV viewership, which is higher for ISL. Even the in-stadia attendance is higher for ISL matches compared to I-League. They also claim that a Masters Rights Agreement (MRA) has been signed with FSDL the sponsor for ISL.

However, the discussion panel on “Talking Turkey with Kanthi” had dubbed the MRA as massively flawed. The discussion arrived at such a point that prompted Kanthi D Suresh to ask whether ISL is the creation of a failed I-League. “Is the MRA incorrect?” she asked.

I-League clubs are a disgruntled lot

The I-League clubs simply loathe the ISL league and they feel that the AIFF strongly backs the ISL in every aspect.  They firmly believe that they are meted out step-motherly treatment by the federation. “Happy to accept FIFA-AFC recommendations,” said Ranjit Bajaj of Minerva Punjab, who was patched-in live over the phone line during the show. As an owner of an I-League, he seems to be quite riled who minced no words in describing the current mess in Indian football. AIFF metes out step-motherly treatment to I-League clubs “of the highest order”, he said.

On asked by Kanthi, whether he is ok with a merger with ISL following recommendations from FIFA and incorporating the promotion and relegation method in the future, Mr. Bajaj promptly said yes. He said that it is the only way footballers develop their skills.

“Who do you blame for this entire imbroglio and impasse in Indian football?” asked Kanthi D Suresh, to which Ranjit Bajaj replied that it is a series of mistakes committed by AIFF that smeared Indian football.

Keith Hofmann

Keith Hofmann writes about bars, restaurants, men’s fashion, movies and health. Hofmann is a qualified cocktail bartender with a diploma from the European Bartender School and holds a degree in English Literature from the University of Westminster.

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