Kushal Das' riposte against the duo of Manoranjan Bhattacharya and Bhaskar Ganguly, two former India internationals who filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in the Supreme Court, continued on Wednesday, 17th August.
In this third part of an exclusive interview with Goal, the general secretary of the AIFF, enumerated the reasons in brief as to why many clubs in India's I-League opted to shut their first team operations, clearly dispelling belief that the Indian FA was solely responsible for their demise.
He also debunked the myth that the number of Indian footballers were dwindling as job opportunities became scarce with the culling of teams in the first division of India's footballing pyramid.
It is no myth that Indian clubs had been tottering close to the edge with respect to operability over many seasons. Goal has constantly and exclusively been at the forefront of reporting their turmoil and closures such as Mahindra United in 2010, Jagatjit Cotton & Textile (JCT) in 2011, Pailan Arrows in 2013, Shillong's Royal Wahingdoh in 2015 and the Pune duo of Pune FC and Bharat FC in 2015 as well.
Questioned as to why former players have blamed the “unprofessional attitude of the AIFF” for several clubs shutting shop, Das was elaborate in his comment.
"The petition incorrectly mentions a negative view on the condition of clubs and players in India.The certain clubs mentioned in the petition decided not to continue due to several internal reasons. Given below are the details:
"JCT: Were relegated from I-League in May 2011. They continued to concentrate on youth development and have been playing the Punjab State League ever since 2011 under the name JCT Academy. In 2014, they applied for 2nd Division League
"Mahindra United FC: They pulled out due to their internal difficulties. According to their press release, they wanted to focus more on grassroots development.
"Chirag United: The club is registered and known as “United Sports Club”. Chirag Computers were the sponsor at one time and thus were known as Chirag United. The club - United Sports Club, still exists, and plays in Kolkata Football League and have participated in I-League, Second Division League in the recent past and have been participating in the youth tournaments organise by AIFF -- U-15 & U- 18 leagues. They performed well in the U 15 Youth League last season and reached till the semi-finals of the competition. Applied for participation this year as well.
"Pailan Arrows: It was not a club, it was an AIFF team set up with support from Pailan Group to give competitive exposure to Under-23 Indian national team players to play against the best clubs of India. The team was disbanded as under new licensing rules of AIFF approved by AFC (Asian Football Confederation), the federation cannot have a club. The players got an opportunity to play directly with the club teams.
"Royal Wahingdoh FC: For their internal reasons, the club decided to concentrate on youth development. The club continues to play the State League and the AIFF organised youth league tournaments -- U-15 & U-18 leagues. They performed well in the U-15 Youth League last season and finished as runner-up of the competition. They have applied for participation this year as well.
"Pune FC: Failed to comply with the Licensing Regulations for I-League clubs for the season 2015-16, and hence they couldn’t participate in the I-League 2015-16. The club continues to operate a full-fledged residential academy for youth teams and participates in AIFF organised tournaments. They have again applied for this season.
"Bharat FC: Failed to comply with the Licensing Regulations for I-League clubs for the season 2015-16, and hence they couldn’t participate in the I-League 2015-16. They are running an academy and have youth teams in various age groups. They have applied to AIFF for Academy Accreditation to participate in AIFF youth tournaments."
The former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the International Cricket Council (ICC) rebutted suggestions that Indian footballers were losing careers, with their overall number being poached by unemployment thanks to the domino effect of clubs shutting down.
"To summarise, the total number of players playing in the top club leagues (ISL, I-League and Second Division, U-18 League) in 2014-15 was 1080 In 2015-16 it was 2300 and in 2016-17 it is expected to be 3100. Similarly, from 49 clubs playing in 2014-15, we had 55 clubs in 2015-16 and expect 70 clubs to play the top leagues. Last year we introduced the U-15 league which had 39 teams and this year there will be 56 teams including ISL teams.
"So I would think the allegations are again absurd and whoever has filed the PIL probably has no clue as to what is happening at the ground level," he emphatically concluded.