What's all the fuss about Aizawl football club?

The best Indian football team will be playing second division in India, while they will play as champions in Asia.

 |  3-minute read |   05-05-2017
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For cricket-obsessed India, the fact that the underdog, budget-tight and never seen or heard before Aizawl Football Club (Aizawl is pronounced as Eye zol. "aw" is one letter and read as "o". Why? I don't know either) kicked the competition out of the stadium, isn't big news. Except that it is.

In football-crazy West Bengal, Goa and Mizoram, this win has been recognised for what it is — a stunning miracle.

The fuss explained:

Aizawl FC made their debut in style by thrashing legendary football clubs like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, to win the I-League championship for 2017. But instead of rolling out the red carpet and bringing on the dancing girls wherever they went, they were astonishingly relegated to second division football instead of top division, which logically is what the champion of a nation is entitled to.

aizawl-wins_050517051024.jpgAIFF and IMG-Reliance as well as the newly forged ISL will gain credibility if they accommodate Aizawl FC in the newly-birthed ISL. Photo: Reuters

To me, it doesn't make sense when a football team that has won a national championship is graded on a lesser level than a team it has defeated. It's just not "cricket".

How did this happen?

The merger of the I-League, organised by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), and IMG-Reliance’s Indian Super League will lead to a union of the existing eight ISL teams and at least three I-League teams. But Aizawl FC won’t be one of those three. This is because they may not be able to bring the Rs 15 crore plus to the table as deemed necessary by IMG-Reliance.

No one ever imagined in their wildest dreams that a club with a budget of Rs 1 crore would make their debut by defeating celebrated clubs like Mohun Bagan (their striker Sony Norde alone is worth more than Rs 1 crore) and East Bengal. So, Aizawl FC hasn't been considered in the merger and all is going on as planned.

The net result is that the best Indian football team will be playing second division in India, while they will play as champions in Asia. Makes sense? Absolutely not.

That's why Aizawl FC owner Robert Royte has protested loudly. He has affirmed that after their written application to the AIFF, if appropriate changes are not made, he and his team would not hesitate to approach the sports ministry, the PMO and even embark on a fast unto death if necessary.

Second-class citizens of Indian football?

The best-laid plans always get waylaid. AIFF (mainly) and IMG-Reliance as well as the newly forged ISL will gain credibility if they accommodate Aizawl FC in the newly-birthed ISL.

aizawl-fc_050517051105.jpgIt doesn't make sense when a football team that has won a national championship is graded on a lesser level than a team it has defeated. It's just not 'cricket'. Photo: Reuters

If not, they ought to take steps to "not" insult a reigning champion by designating them as "second division" whilst the team they beat is designated "first division".

Sport must remain sport and if absolute fairness is not possible, every attempt must be made in attempting to appear to be so. This is what one hopes to see after the May 6 meeting. Else, the theories of discrimination and inequality will rightfully gain traction and weight.

Also read: How Aizawl FC broke the Indian football order, and then some

Writer

Dr Eunice Lalnunmawii Chawngthu Dr Eunice Lalnunmawii Chawngthu

The author is a dental surgeon, lawyer and social activist.

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