I-League exodus continues as Wahingdoh pull out

I-League today suffered another jolt with the Shillong-based side Royal Wahingdoh FC deciding not to play in the upcoming season, citing lack of clarity on the future of the league.

Bengaluru FC's Shankar Sampangiraj (16-blue) heads the ball to goal against Royal Wahingdoh (Yellow) during an I-League football match. The Shillong based Wahingdoh finished third last season.   -  K. Murali Kumar

The I-League today suffered another jolt with the Shillong-based side Royal Wahingdoh FC deciding not to play in the upcoming season, citing lack of clarity on the future of the league. They become the third club in the country after Pune-based clubs Bharat FC and Pune FC pulled out earlier this year.

The team’s General Manager Nicolas Jyrwa confirmed to Sportstar today of the team’s decision. “We took the decision almost a week back. AIFF and its top management have not given us any clarity on the future of the I-League. There is no clear set of rules and regulation to follow. Further, we have been kept in the dark regarding the ISL and I-League merger. All the attention is now on the ISL and we are facing difficulties to get sponsorships. We have sent a letter to AIFF explaining our decision,” said Jyrwa.

Wahingdoh plied their trade in the I-League for the very first time last season and finished a commendable third under the guidance of coach Santosh Kashyap. The club had recently failed to comply with the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) licensing criteria, as their home stadium did not adhere to regulations. However, Wahingdoh, along with Mumbai FC and Shillong Lajong FC, were granted national licenses to compete in the upcoming league.

“Royal Wahingdoh will continue to promote football. We are also looking to focus a lot more on women’s football in the region. But our decision is final and we will not be taking part in the I-League next season,” added Jyrwa.

Last year, the I-League was played among 11 teams and out of those, eight teams remain. Football giants in India, JCT and Mahindra United, had pulled out of the I-League at the end of 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons respectively, citing similar reasons.

Last month, the AIFF had issued tender notice inviting new clubs to feature in the 2015-16 I-League onwards. With Pune-based DSK-Shivajians the only club confirmed till date, next season’s I-League could be competed among nine clubs.

Meghalaya Football Association (MFA) vice-president Diverland Lyngdoh was shocked to hear the news and expressed his concerns for the future of Indian Football:

“A very sad news. Wahingdoh is a club that provided a platform for young kids from the North-East to shine at the national level. I hope more football clubs don’t leave the I-League. AIFF and the respective authorities should try to understand what the core problem is and find a solution immediately.”

The 2015-16 season is expected to start in January, after the end of the ongoing Indian Super League on December 20.