AIFF response to decide DSK Shivajians' I-League future

DSK, which finished seventh in I-League 2016, is waiting for AIFF’s response to monetary issues raised by I-League clubs before taking a major decision about I-League participation.

The India U-23 squad, coached by Stephen Constantine, has three players from the Pune-based I-League side.   -  AIFF Media

Protests from I-League clubs have toned down after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) recently announced a move to simultaneously conduct the Indian Super League and the I-League. But Pune, Chennai and Kolkata clubs involved in either of these competitions may have stadium availability issues to sort out. DSK Shivajians FC, winner of the ‘Best Home Match Organiser’ award last season’s I-League, play home games at the Balewadi stadium, also base for ISL franchise FC Pune City.

A common venue for two teams competing in different leagues is not a major worry, feels Shirish Kulkarni, DSK Shivajians’ president, who attended a recent meeting between I-League clubs and the federation. “Venue usage is not a problem, venue branding is. At the most, matches involving us and FCPC may be held back-to-back on a weekend. Branding at the stadium is for the federation to look at, because teams don’t have same sponsor.”

DSK, which finished seventh in I-League 2016, is waiting for AIFF response in July to monetary issues raised by I-League clubs before taking a major decision about I-League participation by the first team. Kulkarni explains: “The federation has two meetings this month, one pertains to monetary issues put forward by the I-League clubs. In the absence of any response, we need to think about pulling out the first team. The demonetization has hit business.”

DSK will however continue to play I-League U-18 and U-16 tournaments.

I-League clubs’ suggestions pending before the AIFF include increased travel subsidy, money for event promotion, and increase in number of foreign players. Replying to a query about the pending payments to players last season’s squad, Kulkarni said: “Outstanding payments will be cleared in a month’s time.”

He replied in the affirmative about availability of players and head coach (Dave Rogers) when I-League and ISL will be played alongside. “Players signed two year contracts, so will be available for the first team if we continue. Coach Rogers is also with us.”

Nine players from DSK development squad were given I-League debuts in 2016 under Rogers. DSK stars like midfielder Milan Singh (Delhi Dynamos), U-18 play-maker Jerry Mawihming-thanga (North East United FC) may choose the ISL over I-League. The India U-23 squad, coached by Stephen Constantine, has three players from the Pune-based I-League side. Kulkarni informs that in such situations, players will be loaned to the ISL franchises like the arrangement in 2016 season when the AIFF conducted ISL and I-League separately. “We will not stand in the way if players want to move. We spend on grooming talent and give them opportunity”

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