The I-League clubs Saturday stuck to their demand of rescheduling the Super Cup qualifying round matches, but the All India Football Federation rejected it yet again, saying that the main round of the tournament will start as planned from March 29.
On Friday, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das had informed the I-League clubs that the federation has accepted their demand of a meeting with president Praful Patel – between April 13 and 15 – to discuss their grievances but made it clear that the Super Cup qualifying round matches will not be rescheduled.
Das had said that the rescheduling of the qualifying round will be against the tournament rules and would be unfair to those clubs that turned up. Former I-League champions Minerva Punjab and Aizawl FC as well as Gokulam Kerala did not turn up in the qualifying round matches of the Super Cup on March 15 and 16 in Bhubaneswar.
The I-League clubs had demanded a meeting with Patel before the start of the qualifying round but the acceptance from the AIFF came only Friday. While accepting the clubs’ demand to meet Patel, the AIFF had told the six I-League sides – Chennai City FC, East Bengal, Neroca FC, Real Kashmir FC, Mohun Bagan and Churchill Brothers – to confirm their participation in the main round of the Super Cup starting March 29 in Bhubaneswar by Saturday.
These six clubs had finished in the top-six in the recently concluded I-League and they got direct entry in the round of 16 of Super Cup, where they will be joined by the top-six sides of the Indian Super League. Replying to the AIFF’s letter, the I-League clubs Saturday stuck to their stand that the Super Cup qualifying round be rescheduled.
“I-League teams designated to play the qualifying rounds viz. Minerva Punjab FC, Gokulam Kerala FC & Aizawl FC in all earnestly were present at Bhubaneswar at the time of the match with readiness to play the match and awaiting only for a nod to an appointment sought with the president,” the letter sent by the I-League clubs said.
“Had the appointment to meet the I-League Club been done a week earlier by 14th, all the three teams would have definitely taken the field to play the match in all honesty.”
The I-League clubs said that “there was no intention to boycott the Super Cup nor it’s rules but to stand united to get an appointment with the president which was finally achieved by the sacrifice of these three teams”.
“We also would like to thank you for extending the last date of registration in Super Cup from 22nd to 23rd March and by doing so, you have already amended the tournament rules. In the interest of football in our country we request the parent body to have the same flexible approach to amend the rules of Super Cup and start afresh,” they said in the letter sent on Saturday.
“We once again appeal and request you to start the tournament all over again and give us all an opportunity to play in the Super Cup,” they said.
Das, however, said that the AIFF has no plans to reschedule the qualifying matches and the main round will go ahead on March 29. “It [demand for rescheduling of qualifying round matches] is not going to happen. We cannot allow Indian football [season] to end in a shameful manner,” Das told PTI on Saturday.
“We will go ahead with the main round on March 29. Whoever want to take part, they can take part, and whoever do not want, they may not take part. We have written a letter to the clubs. The registration will be closed today, we have to do branding of the tournament,” he added.
The I-League clubs, including new champions Chennai City FC, had earlier expressed their willingness to compete in the Super Cup if the national federation addresses their concerns about the impending restructuring of the domestic football leagues.
These clubs are worried that the I-League may be relegated to the second tier in the domestic restructuring during the upcoming season on the direction of the Asian Football Confederation.
However, East Bengal, Neroca FC and Real Kashmir did not sign the earlier letter sent to the AIFF on March 20.