Kuala Lumpur: A meeting here of Indian football’s stakeholders has emerged with a consensus on working together to find the way forward for the development of Indian club football, the Asian Fotball Confederation (AFC), which facilitated the deliberations, said on Wednesday.
Chaired by AFC General Secretary Dato Windsor John, the meeting included representatives of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the Sports Ministry of India, the I-League and Indian Super League (ISL) clubs, besides officials of Football Players Association of India (FPAI) as well as from the game’s world governing body FIFA.
However, several ISL franchises skipped the conference as they did not deem it to be important, it was learnt. Although no final decision was taken on whether an AFC Cup slot will be awarded to the ISL, John averred that the meeting had a positive outcome. “There was a desire by people, who are extremely passionate about the game, to marry the strengths of both the traditional and the new, which helped in delivering the objectives of the meeting in which the AFC listened to the key stakeholders.
“The objectives were clear — to help provide a road map for the future development of Indian football by reaching a consensus on the way forward. It was a significant step forward that there was unanimous agreement that the right structure for the game should be paramount,” John said after the meeting.
“The stated vision of the AFC is to make football the number one sport in Asia, and so to achieve that aim Indian football and its development is extremely important. There is no doubt that Indian football has huge potential, and the meeting was convened so that the potential could be realised.
“There is a need to find solutions which ensure that Indian football is protected and that there are opportunities for young players, who must not be lost to our game,” he added.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das expressed his gratitude to the AFC for facilitating the meeting to break the deadlock.
“We are grateful to the AFC for facilitating the meeting which is crucial to the development of football in India. We must go through this process to create the best future for the game in our country. In the meantime, we have to decide on the short-term future of the game as soon as possible,” Das said.
The ball is now firmly in the AIFF’s court to chart the next course of action as Kolkata clubs East Bengal and Mohun Bagan have refused to pay the franchise fee of Rs 15 crore and also want their share from the central revenue pool. Other I-League clubs had also expressed their displeasure at AIFF’s volte-face after AIFF President Praful Patel had stated that the I-League would remain the top league in the country but later mooted the idea of running ISL and I-League simultaneously.
In the meeting, it was agreed that the AIFF will decide the format for the short-term and there was an agreement around a roadmap to deliver medium- and long-term plans for the game in India through a detailed process.
The AFC statement also said that independent research would be commissioned and analysed before being evaluated by the AIFF and the stakeholders, with the decisions on the medium- and long-term pathway being taken as soon as possible after the FIFA U-17 World Cup, starting from October 6 across six cities in India.