2nd Division I-League: TRAU general secretary unhappy with AIFF's choice of venue for final rounds

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General secretary of TRAU opens up to GOAL after the north-eastern team made it to the final round of the second division I-League...

Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) FC from Manipur have the opportunity to become the second club from the state to play top-tier football after North Eastern Re-Organising Cultural Association (NEROCA), if they come out unscathed in the final round of the second division of I-league which is scheduled to be held from May 24- May 30 in Bengaluru. The three other teams that qualified for the final round are Real Kashmir, Delhi United and Ozone FC. 

When Bengaluru was announced as the venue it did not go down well with T. Phulen Meitei, general secretary of TRAU, as Ozone FC hails from the garden city of Karnataka. He feels that one of the teams will unduly get the advantage of playing in known conditions. 

"To be sincere, the AIFF was planning for a neutral venue. Now that Ozone FC have qualified, it won't be a neutral venue because they will have home advantage. I was talking to the authorities and asking them why they cannot do it in a place like Kolkata where Mohammedan, the only team from the city did not qualify for the final round. Giving it to Bengaluru means there will be a slight disadvantage for three teams. But, what can we say? It is ultimately AIFF's decision.

"I was told that they have taken into consideration accommodation, transportation, providing four practice grounds, favourable climate and the fact that two matches have to be played at the same time, Bengaluru emerged as the right choice for them," said Meitei exclusively to Goal after ensuring qualification in the final round. 

It has been a long cherished dream to play top-flight football and TRAU is just two matches away from fulfilling it. The Manipuri outfit has braved all the difficulties that plague a club with a shoestring budget and is on the verge of making history. They have been in red-hot form throughout their campaign where they have lost only once and have collected 23 points from the possible 30. 

"I heard that Mohammedan pays around 5 Lakhs per month for Fikru. That is more than our total budget for a month! When I heard that Kingfisher reduced East Bengal's sponsorship to 1.5 Crores, I thought that if someone would sponsor us with that amount of money, we can become the I-League champions. Even with 50 lakhs, I can proudly say we can win the I-League. With a limited budget so far, what we have achieved is beyond expectations. It is all because of the players and the dedication, commitment from the executive members of the club, without their support, we cannot run the club.

"We have invested a lot and we're not getting any returns. The only return is the praise for our players and we get very happy when we see our name out in the media. Financially, there is none. It has become a way of life for all associated with TRAU. I am very satisfied with the performance of the youngsters. In our first venture (in the 2nd Divison I-League), our performance is more than we expected," reveals Meitei from Manipur. 


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The administrator goes on to differentiate between them and NEROCA where he explains that the orange brigade is a club registered under Companies Registration Act whereas TRAU is under Societies Registration Act making it a fan-based team, which further limits them from flexing financial muscles. 

Although Manipur did not fare well in the recently concluded Santosh Trophy, Meitei is exuberant with the quality of local talent that has flooded the national scene in the last couple of years and hopes that these young boys will play a significant role in realizing the dream of getting promoted. Interestingly, as many as six Manipuri players were named in Bengaluru Reserves' matchday squad against TRAU, with three starting against them.

"There is a lot of domestic talent from Manipur and now they also have experience. We have ISL players in Malemnganba Meitei (NorthEast United) and Ronald Singh (ATK). Even Princewill is doing good. Most of the players are young but they have got exposure at the youth level. Hopefully, the boys continue their fitness and are ready to play the final round. If luck is in favour of us, we will go into the I-League," he hoped.