Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal need to put their complaints aside and do some ’soul-searching’ on why they have failed to attract the kind of investors needed to play in the more glamorous Indian Super League, AIFF General secretary Kushal Das said on Tuesday.
At the launch of the 10-team I-League, AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said that I-League, for this year, will remain the official league and its winner will qualify for the AFC Champions League.
While Bagan and East Bengal have already failed AFC licensing criteria earlier this year, Das informed that it will not hamper their chances of playing the AFC Champions League, if they happen to win the I-League.
"They can (play AFC Champions League) but once they start participating, they have to fulfill the licensing the criteria. They will get some time to sort out the licensing issue," Das said at the launch of I-League.
Asked if it's a setback that clubs with a legacy of over 100 years are not playing in the Indian Super League (ISL), Das urged the Kolkata giants to do some soul-searching.
Both the clubs have refused to pay the franchise fee needed to compete in the ISL, insisting that they should be included because of their history.
"While they have a huge fan base, they also have to realise somehow there are no investors coming. They are finding it difficult to get sponsorships.”
"So they have to introspect what is wrong? Why are clubs with such history and legacy fan following unable to get sponsorship and investment," Das gave a direct reply to a query about the two clubs with biggest fan base.
The AIFF top boss made it clear that it is the clubs that need to find an answer.
"That's a question they will have to find an answer to. I am happy to help them but they will only have to find an answer," Das said.
One of the biggest reasons for sponsors and investors turning their backs to the clubs is the lack of long-term strategic planning.
"I think the whole issue is to convince the sponsors about their strategic plan for next five years. This is where I want to be -- say after five years. Probably, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have not been able to do that," he reasoned.
When Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen was asked about not getting the cream of Indian players, who are plying their trade in the ISL, he said: "Players may come and players may go but the system never changes. A new set of players come, take up the challenge of adapting to the system."
A reticent East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil dodged the question if the 2pm start of most of the matches and two leagues running parallel will affect I-League.
"It's a good question but I believe the authorities must have given it a thought before deciding on the schedule," Jamil said.
Das was asked about whether the television ratings of I-League will be affected, he said: "I don't think that will be the case."
Indian Arrows will make a comeback in the senior league with the bulk of U-17 World Cup players in the team.
"The only way to develop is to jump a few steps. The aim will be to gain more experience. There were 11 players in the squad for the AFC U-19 qualifiers," Luis Norton De Matos said.
India's only scorer in the U-17 World Cup, Jeakson Singh said that it is time to look ahead.
"The World Cup is done. It is a big challenge to play senior teams but we will fight for results," the talented Manipuri said.
Manipur's NEROCA FC coach Gift Raikhan promised a good show and good infrastructure in Imphal.