East Bengal, Mohun Bagan amplify claim for ISL berth

Indian football’s traditional clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal on Staurday joined hands to declare an unofficial war against Indian Super League, threatening to disrupt the cash-rich event if their three-point demand were not met with.

The Big two clubs refused to budge from their three-point demand and did not submit the bid document for their induction into the ISL.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Two of the oldest clubs of Indian football — Mohun Bagan and East Bengal — commanding the biggest fan-bases in the country sought to leverage their status in amplifying their claim for automatic inclusion in the Indian Super League (ISL).

“There will be no ISL matches in Kolkata if Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are kept out of the tournament,” Mohun Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra said after the executive committees of the two clubs held a meeting with Indian Football Association (IFA), the governing body of the sport in Bengal. The clubs sought to take a defiant stand as the date for certifying ISL as an official tournament drew near.

“East Bengal and Mohun Bagan will have to be allowed to play the ISL. We are convinced about the legitimacy of this demand,” said the secretary of IFA, Utpal Ganguli.

The Asian Football Confederation secretary Windsor John, in a recent visit to India, asked for meeting of the state-holders of All India Football Federation in Kuala Lumpur on June 7. This meeting will apparently put the official seal of recognition by the continental body on the ISL, making the two decorated clubs with millions of fan following look for a berth in the tournament.

“The AIFF president Praful Patel had assured us during our meeting on May 6 (at Mumbai) that AIFF will come out with a clear roadmap of development by the 25th of this month. He had also stated that I-League and ISL will continue as separate tournaments, to be played in different time slots and not as concurrent ones as it is evident now,” said Debasish Dutta, the finance secretary of Bagan.

“I personally feel that Mr. Patel himself does not want to include our clubs in the ISL. Hence, we need to take a tough stand on the issue and make AIFF realise its mistake,” said Debabrata (Nitu) Sarkar, a senior functionary of East Bengal.

“The meeting decided that we will be writing to the AIFF to come ahead with the stated road-map as soon as possible while enabling us decide on the future course of action,” the IFA secretary said as the representatives of the clubs raised their claim for a ISL ticket. This happened two days after ISL closed the bidding process for additional teams to be included in the tournament.

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