The AIFF is currently mulling over teams that can replace Air India and ONGC for the 2013-14 I-League season. The two sides have been in hot water for failing to comply with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC)'s licensing criteria. If Bagan's ban had been upheld, there would have been three vacant slots up for grabs in next year's I-League without taking into consideration the automatic relegation scenario.
Mohammedan Sporting, one of Kolkata's well known teams could have benefited from this. The Black Panthers are one of the oldest and most well-supported sides in the country. East Bengal official Debabrata Sarkar had earlier this week called for Mohammedan to be inducted directly into the I-League next year as they too have a rich history and huge fanbase on the lines of Mohun Bagan.
The AIFF claimed that the history and fan support of the Mariners was a major factor in them getting a reprieve from the ban that would have seen the already plummeting I-League stock hit new depths.
"We have nothing to say about the decision of the AIFF Executive Committee as we are never against the welfare of any Kolkata club," said Mohammedan Sporting Club president Sultan Ahmed to The Times of India.
"But at the same time, Mohammedan Sporting are also a club with a lot of heritage and a huge support base throughout the country. Indian football is incomplete without East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting," added the Union Minister of Tourism.
The Kolkata club were last seen in the premier division in the 2008-09 season. Mohammedan will start a rally to garner support for their demand on January 26, 2013 with a signature campaign near the Goshto Pal statue.
"We want the AIFF to induct Mohammedan Sporting directly into the first division I-League. Our campaign won't be restricted to only Kolkata or Bengal, but will be spread across the country," said Ahmed who also went on to thank East Bengal for their thoughtfulness and appealed to Mohun Bagan to put their weight in Mohammedan's desire to return to the top division.
Ahmed claimed that till the ban on Bagan was lifted, he had no idea that the history of a club was taken into consideration while making such a crucial decision.
"We didn't know that they could give importance to heritage. They have opened the door (for us). And we are not asking for anything new. Two clubs were taken directly into top division of the National Football League in 1997-98 as well," opined Ahmed.
The Black Panthers' official also brought out an earlier complaint he had made to the AIFF regarding the scheduling of the final phase of Second Division matches at Gangtok last year. Ahmed claimed that the Kolkatans were denied a clear penalty whilst awarding the opposition an unfair spot-kick, in the decisive game against United Sikkim FC. The match ended in a 1-1 draw allowing the Sikkim club to qualify for the I-League premier division.
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