Aizawl FC's participation in tonight's blockbuster North-East derby against Shillong Lajong which will decide the destination of the I-League trophy was put into some doubt following AIFF's controversial choice of officials.
Aizawl FC, who are three points clear of Mohun Bagan at the summit, will win the league for the first time in their history if they manage to get themselves at least a point from the game at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Shillong.
But Khalid Jamil's side were miffed at All India Football Federation's (AIFF) decision to appoint four referees from Bengal to officiate the high-voltage game, with Mohun Bagan in the running to win the title.
After initially threatening a boycott, AIFF managed to convince Aizawl FC officials that the referees will handle the game with absolute neutrality.
Pranjal Banerjee is the designated referee for the game while Asit Kumar Sarkar and Suman Majumdar will be the assistant referees. Tanmoy Dhar is the fourth official for this all-important game.
Aizawl FC owner Robert Royte met with AIFF officials an hour and a half before the game commenced at a hotel in Shillong wherein the Mizoram-based club were appeased and talked into playing the game, despite their misgivings.
Mr. Royte said, "We are going to go ahead with the game but we will keep a strict vigil on the referees. We are not happy with the situation but we did not want to deny our fans who live and breathe football a chance to see their team win the title. We will keep fighting this injustice from the AIFF after the game."
Apparently, Aizawl had written to AIFF earlier this month, asking them to appoint only referees from neutral states for the remaining games which involved Aizawl FC and Mohun Bagan and the Indian FA's disregard to that request is what has fanned the flames.
The People's Club then apparently intimated AIFF that they bear no responsibility in case any untoward incidents take place during tonight's game as a result of any controversial decisions from the referee.
At any rate, the actions of the match officials will be under tight scrutiny tonight in Shillong.