East Bengal unhappy - How did the other I-League clubs react to AIFF's decision to call off season?

While most I-League clubs were in favour of the AIFF's decision to call off the league and declare Mohun Bagan the champion, East Bengal was unhappy with the call.

Mohun Bagan, which had an unassailable lead at the top of the standings, was declared the I-League champion.

Mohun Bagan, which had an unassailable lead at the top of the standings, was declared the I-League champion.   -  Special Arrangement

The AIFF League Committee, on Saturday, decided to formally call off the current I-League season due to the ongoing lockdown in the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mohun Bagan, which had an unassailable lead at the top of the standings, was declared the champion, while relegation to the second division was scrapped. The prize money for the teams placed between second and fourth was equally distributed to the rest of the teams in the league.

Sportstar reached out to all the clubs to get their views on the recommendations put forward from Saturday’s meeting.

 

Mohun Bagan

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Mohun Bagan won the I-League title four matches to spare and matched the record so far owned by Dempo SC, which accomplished a similar feat in 2009-2010 season.   -  RAJEEV BHATT

 

In the end, what we have done on the field – that only stands today. Nobody can get to our points tally. Even if we had lost all four remaining matches, no one would have come to 39 points. We are obliged to the eight I-League clubs; they have shown the sportsman spirit and wrote an official letter to the I-League committee (accepting Mohun Bagan as the league winner). These eight clubs have shown that how Indian football can think positively. – Debashis Dutta, senior Mohun Bagan official
 

East Bengal

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East Bengal was second on the I-League points table before the league was affected due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Firstly, I would like to congratulate Mohun Bagan for winning the I-League. However, you know that FIFA said that the league could be extended if needed. It did not say anything about paying the players extra or about a contract extension. So I am not sure why this wasn’t done (league extension). We have been deprived of a chance of finishing second. We protest the AIFF's decision and it hasn’t worked well for us. This has happened earlier too, many decisions have gone against us. It feels like a dictatorship. We will discuss over the next three days and see if we want to take this forward. – Debabrata Sarkar, senior East Bengal official

 

Punjab FC

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Punjab's former director said that the AIFF should provide a stipend for all the coaches without salaries.   -  @ILeagueOfficial/Twitter

 

I think Mohun Bagan are the deserved champions as they had mathematically won the title. Whereas, the race for the second spot was wide open. Anything can happen in football and everyone had a chance, so I feel it was the right decision (to split the prize money equally among all clubs). I also feel the AIFF should provide a stipend for all the coaches without salaries, and some kind of aid for lower-division footballers and the referees. The ecosystem should not die down. – Ranjit Bajaj, former director of Punjab FC

 

Real Kashmir FC

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Real Kashmir co-owner believed the decision to call off the season was "very fair".   -  PTI

 

This is how it realistically should have been - Mohun Bagan are undoubtedly the winners of the I-League, so there is no confusion about it. Due to force majeure, nobody can do anything and realistically there is no way the league can restart. I have no complaints at all, I think it’s a very fair decision. – Sandeep Chattoo, owner of Real Kashmir FC

 

TRAU

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TRAU could have caught up to East Bengal at the second spot, believed its secretary.   -  @officialtraufc/Twitter

 

I had spoken to the I-League CEO Sunando Dhar about it and since Mohun Bagan had already won the league and even if East Bengal wins its remaining matches, it won’t be able to overhaul them. Regarding race for the second spot, I think we could catch up to East Bengal. Our intention was that the prize money is equally divided between all teams. Punjab FC, Gokulam Kerala, Chennai City have all submitted their proposals to end the season and declare Mohun Bagan as champion; it was a collective decision. - Phulen Meitei, secretary of TRAU
 

Gokulam Kerala FC

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Gokulam Kerala owner said the club was happy to see the prize money being shared.   -  Special Arrangement

 

The decision is much on the expected lines because the Sports Ministry had declared that we can’t hold any camps until July. And if the league was to restart in July, we have to take into account that Calcutta Football League would be on at that time, some players would have completed their transfers so it would be difficult to play it out under these circumstances.

There is also the added element of monsoon season starting in Kerala in July. If we finish the season in May, it makes sense but in the present situation, it is not possible.

Although if the AIFF is willing to give 10 months waiting time for the I-League second division to be completed, then they could have done the same with the I-League as well. We were okay to share the prize money because we are not in it only for the money. There was only one point difference among the teams so it’s good to share the prize money. - V.C. Praveen, president of Gokulam
 

Chennai City FC

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Chennai City was amongst the clubs which was happy that the season was cancelled in the wake of the virus.   -  S Siva Saravanan

 

It’s good news and most clubs are for it. There is no point in restarting the league two months down the line and going up and down about it. There is also confirmation about the AFC Cup slot [which will go to the ISL runner-up Chennaiyin FC] so there is no real need for the league to restart.

Financially also all clubs will be safe because if the league has to be restarted in another month’s time, we will have to seek permission for the stadium. Marketing will go for a toss because it will likely be closed-door games and we have to keep in mind it [I-League] is now the second division in the country. We will have to pay maintenance costs for the pitch and it has not been maintained in the last month as well. So viably and financially, this is the best possible outcome. - Rohit Ramesh, owner and CEO of Chennai City
 

Churchill Brothers

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Some of Churchill Brothers' players were stressed due to the uncertainty of the league because of the lockdown.   -  @ILeagueOfficial/Twitter

 

I had written to the federation when the league was suspended and nearly 70 per cent of my players had left by March 16. We didn’t know when the lockdown would end and normalcy will resume, and for the players mentally also it was really stressful. In the letter, I had told the federation that we would need at least 15 days to train the players together before the season resumes but then we don’t know when the airports will open again. And Mohun Bagan had already wrapped up the title, so it’s the right decision to end the season here with respect to what is happening all around the world. - Valanka Alemao, CEO of Churchill Brothers
 

NEROCA

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NEROCA was happy with the decision to distribute the prize money for the teams placed between second and fourth to the rest of the teams in the league.   -  @NerocaFC/Twitter

 

According to the current situation, it’s difficult for us to organise the team to restart the season since our players all come from different parts of the country. We were happy to follow the AIFF guidelines to bring the season to an end. The distribution of prize money is really helpful for us. - Arunkumar Thangjam, president of NEROCA

 

Aizawl FC

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Aizawl could have reached the top-five had the league resumed, felt the owner.   -  @ILeagueOfficial/Twitter

 

Since the lockdown will last till May 3, and since there are some legal implications to further extend the I-League beyond May – it seems to be the right decision and also the only option available to them (AFF). It is not like we were in the relegation zone. We could have reached the top-5 if we had played all games. Except for Mohun Bagan, who are the undisputed champions, no other club can claim any other spot because the remaining matches could have changed the positions. All the clubs are in the same position because the league isn’t complete. – Robert Royte, owner of Aizawl FC

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