Churchill Brothers might not have to ply their trade in the second division next season even after finishing in the relegation zone in the previous edition of I-League if the All India Football Federation (AIFF) responds to the plea of the Goan outfit.
After finishing with 17 points from 18 games, Churchill Brothers finished in the dreaded drop zone. However, the Red Machines had requested the AIFF to review their relegation on two grounds.
The Churchill management felt that many crucial decisions went against their team which dented their progress. They also argued that Goa has been the hotbed for Indian football as the coastal state have produced outstanding players for many decades. In the absence of other Goan powerhouses, Churchill remains the sole representative of Goa in I-League and their exclusion will be detrimental to the development of football in the state.
"After the Indian Arrows match, I am very unhappy with the refereeing standards of the league. They have denied us legal goals and have not awarded us clear penalties which were in our favour. Then from Goa, there is only one I-League team. To benefit Goan football there must be at least one representative in the top division," said Churchill Alemao, owner of Churchill Brothers to Goal back in March.
Pre-season training has started full swing under the tutelage of newly appointed Romanian head coach Petre Gigiu at the Fatorda Stadium as the management remains confident of a positive hearing. They have signed former East Bengal player Khalid Aucho and have retained Trinidadian forward Willis Plaza, defender Hussein Eldor and midfielder Dawda Ceesay.
It must be noted that it will not be for the first time that AIFF has allowed relegated teams to continue in the top tier, with Aizawl FC being the most prominent example. The Mizo outfit finished ninth on the league table with 16 points with DSK Shivajians finishing last. But DSK's immunity from relegation pulled Aizawl down to the second division. They were later reinstated in I-League after appeal.
It seems most likely that Churchill will also be back in the mix.