Despite their vehement protests, Air India will have to play the National Football League match against Fransa Pax as per the amended schedule on March 2.
"As of now, the Fransa-Air India match will be played on March 2 as per the decision of the Federation president," All India Football Federation secretary-General Alberto Colaco told reporters in New Delhi on Monday.
The spat, arising out of Fransa's threat to withdraw from the NFL after the controversial match against Mahindra United on January 30, had led to another redrawing of the schedule. Air India were initially granted three points for their match against Fransa after the Goan side failed to turn up for the February 3 fixture. But later AIFF went back on its decision and rescheduled the three matches Fransa missed.
However, on Monday, Colaco denied that the airmen had refused to play the match.
"Air India has conveyed to AIFF that they have granted leave to their players and they would face problems in re-assembling them for the match. They have asked us to reconsider the schedule.
"We have asked them to give their stand in writing and any further decision would be taken after we receive their letter," Colaco said.
The NFL committee, headed by Colaco, had authorized AIFF chief Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi to take a decision in this regard and the secretary-general said he had written to all the NFL clubs and AIFF Executive Committee members before arriving at the decision.
Colaco denied that the decision to replay the match was made without taking Air India into confidence.
"Many of the clubs did not respond to AIFF president's letter but of the few that did, Air India was one," he said.
"I cannot divulge what they said but they replied to Dasmunshi's letter."
Admitting that frequent changes in the NFL schedule had an adverse impact on the game and the players, Colaco, however, claimed that the AIFF should not be held accountable in this regard.
"Matches have been rescheduled for reasons such as unavailability of grounds, poor pitch conditions and controversies arising out of refereeing decisions. None of it is AIFF's doing. Rescheduling is always difficult as we have to work around the dates of other competitions," he said.
"We do not own the infrastructure and the grounds are owned by the affiliate associations. Refereeing decisions give rise to debate as they are fallible. We are planning training programmes for them with technical inputs from FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC)."
Asked whether the Federation contemplated action against the Western India Football Association (WIFA) for not getting the Cooperage ground in Mumbai in order even though the NFL dates were announced, Colaco said such problems added to the Federation's headaches.
"We had to move the Match Commissioner between venues when a ground was deemed unfit as the process of the game had already started."