Aizawl FC have been recently issued a show-cause notice by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for failing to provide adequate security to the away team and match officials after crowd trouble in two consecutive home matches against East Bengal and Mohun Bagan respectively in the ongoing I-League campaign.
Coach Paulo Meneses' name has also been specifically included in the show-cause notice as the Portuguese coach has been held guilty of showing dissent by the apex governing body.
Earlier, Mohun Bagan had filed a written complaint to the AIFF highlighting the safety issues that the team faced in Aizawl as the Aizawl FC management failed to control the angry outburst of fans when the referee's decisions went against the home side. They also mentioned that a lack of fencing in the stadium adds to the problem.
Goal got in touch with Robert Royte, the President and owner of Aizawl FC, to seek his response after the developments and how the North-Eastern team would go about in responding to it.
“Aizawl FC has always been very congenial and friendly towards visiting teams. When the fans are behaving aggressively against the referees, everyone should understand that something wrong has happened on the field," he remarked.
"On that particular day, I was also present on the ground. We appreciate and respect the legacy and achievements of Mohun Bagan but the fans behaved in an unruly manner only because of the wrong decisions of the referee," said Royte while defending his team's fans and shifting the blame on to the refereeing decisions that he thinks incited the angry response from the fans.
He went on to criticize the AIFF, arguing that the governing body should update their rule book wherein a player or his team can challenge a booking by the referee in front of a tribunal so that the player can seek redressal if he is wrongly victimized.
“The disciplinary code of AIFF does not have any provision to revoke or recall a red card or allow the club to appeal against it. The decision (Alfred Jaryan's red card) was unacceptable not only to Aizawl FC but to the football fraternity at large. But football has its own rule and it will follow its own course.”
Royte did not mince words while expressing his anger at poor standards of refereeing in the league.
“The referee’s job is as important as the job of the players on the field. There was a clear handball of a Mohun Bagan player in the penalty box on that day in the 73rd minute to be precise. The ball hit the Bagan player's hand and the hand itself was swinging, but the referee did not penalize Mohun Bagan.”
The Aizawl FC management was so unhappy with the decisions that they went a step further and sent video clips of the events to Spain and other European sports forensic laboratories so that they can put forward a strong case in front of AIFF while replying to the show-cause notice.
“The red card was unexpected and surprising. We had sent the video clips of the controversial events to Spain and some other foreign sports laboratory as well, as the decisions were hard for us to accept. The results showed that the exploitation by the referees on Aizawl FC was too much. We will put forward our part of the story with video clips.”
The politician from Aizawl confirmed that they accept the sanction against them but at the same time will urge the committee to take a closer look as to what fuelled the fans' ire.
“We are seeking a one-time pardon from the AIFF as I accept the disciplinary actions taken by AIFF against us. As a president of Aizawl FC, my wish is that let us all forget the ugly incident and move forward, as our intentions were not foul.”
“I also do hope that they (AIFF) will look into our grievances as well. We do not support these kinds of incidents but at the same time, the governing body should also look into the faults of the referee.
First, they must accept that the referee was wrong in showing a red card to Alfred Jaryan. Second, the referee denied us a penalty when the ball hit the left hand of Mohun Bagan player. Third, the way Aizawl was victimized and Mohun Bagan was awarded a penalty was not right. We discussed the decisions with referees abroad and they were very much sympathetic to us.”
Royte also expressed his amusement at East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil's claims that he was asked to leave Aizawl FC after leading the team to the I-League title last season.
“East Bengal coach Khalid is very dear to me and I respect him very much. But it was a mistake on his part to say that Aizawl knocked him out of his job.
"He personally told me that he will not continue with Aizawl. Things started to change when the Kolkata clubs started contacting him. After the match, when I was wishing him all the best I told him that, 'Mr. Khalid it was very unfortunate that you lied to the press'. It will not be good for his future as well.”
“Mr. Khalid’s wrong selection of words ignited the fan fury. It might be his way to play mind games before the match (but) that I don’t know," stated Royte on Jamil.
The Aizawl supremo had no qualms in accepting that infrastructure of the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium makes it hard to provide security from the fuming fans and it will not be possible until the next season to upgrade the security at the stadium.
"We have our own limitations as well as the design of our ground is not conducive to football matches, as there is no proper fencing. The players and the referees have to climb the stairs which run amidst the fans which makes it difficult to maintain discipline.
"Star Sports has written to us with their suggestion regarding the floodlights and only because of a considerate decision from AIFF, we were able to host matches. I have already spoken to engineers about the security issue and there will be improvements in the design from the next season and not this season," assured Royte.
The Chairman of TT Royte group lashed out at IMG-Reliance and the AIFF for making it mandatory to pay the franchisee fee for a team to get registered with the Indian Super League (ISL).
“If you consider all major leagues across the globe, there is no provision of any franchisee fee to be able to play in the top league. They all get entry through merit and performance. The champions of the second division gain automatic promotion to the top league. But what is happening is surprising to me. I do acknowledge the developments that ISL has brought to Indian football but at the same time IMG-R and AIFF should protect and respect the interests of I-Leagues clubs as well.”
Royte remains unsure what the future holds for his team and other I-League clubs but hopes that the AFC in consultation with the AIFF will be able to produce a blueprint which will promote the interests of all parties involved and refrain them from taking up any legal measure to assert their rights.
“We have represented our case in front of AFC in Kuala Lumpur last year and also in front of AIFF. Other I-league clubs have also voiced their concern. It is still unknown to us what will happen next season. But I do believe and hope that the AFC in consultation with AIFF can come out with a merger formula so that no legal safeguards will be necessary for either I-league or ISL clubs," signed off Royte.