Newly crowned I-League champions Chennai City FC on Saturday decided to take the field against FC Pune City in the round of 16 match of Super Cup in Bhubaneswar on Sunday, breaking away from the eight club alliance which had demanded rescheduling of the tournament.
The likes of East Bengal, Minerva Punjab, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala had pulled out of the tournament, demanding a fair treatment of the I-League clubs by the All India Football Federation in the impending domestic restructuring.
They have sought rescheduling of the qualifying round of the Super Cup after their demand for a meeting with AIFF President Praful Patel was granted by the federation.
Mohun Bagan, which was also a part of the alliance, did not register their players for the tournament and the AIFF on Saturday deemed the Kolkata giants to have withdrawn from the tournament.
Indian Super League champions Bengaluru FC, who are to play against Mohun Bagan in their round of 16 match on Sunday, were ON Saturday declared to have progressed to the last-eight stage.
“Defending champions Bengaluru FC who were slated to play Mohun Bagan in Round of 16 match of the Super Cup on March 31, 2019 [Sunday] at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar have been given a bye to the quarterfinals of the Hero Super Cup,” the AIFF said in a statement.
“Mohun Bagan did not submit their entry of players, and staff within the registration date. Henceforth, as per regulations, Mohun Bagan have been being considered as having withdrawn from the tournament. Bengaluru qualify for the quarter-finals after Mohun Bagan’s withdrawal,” it added.
It will have to be seen whether Churchill Brothers and Neroca FC play their round of 16 match on April 2 and 3rd respectively. Neroca did not sign one of the letters sent by the clubs to the AIFF.
Real Kashmir, on the hand, have indicated that they have no issues playing in the Super Cup. They face ISL side ATK on April 1.
At the pre-match conference on Saturday, Chennai City FC head coach Akbar Nawas declared that rivals FC Pune City would start as favourites on Sunday.
“Pune have the players, the foreigners they have, the coach they have. Player for player there is no match for any ISL team in terms of budget and portfolio. So, on paper I’m sure they are the favourites,” Nawas said.
Asked if Chennai would attempt a double after winning the I-League, the Singaporean said, “I don’t know. I cannot say that because all over the world, you normally play the cup competition within the league itself and the final you normally play after the league like the FA Cup.
“So, it’s something new to me that you play the cup competition after the league. So, I don’t know how to answer that,” he said.
Pune head coach Phil Brown said to come up against I-League champions would be a good challenge.
“Chennai are a good side. I watched their games against Churchill and Minerva with great interest because I want to know what the standard is compared to ISL. I think the energy and work rate, the mentality and quality of the front three was probably the main reason why they won the I-League,” he said.
“We are looking forward to tomorrow’s match. We came to Bhubaneswar just under a week ago and we prepared properly for the game and we got a bye to the next game which is the rules of the competition. But all the players and the management staff are really focused for the next game. We want to go as far as we can in the competition.”