The never- ending battle between the country and the club is now extending its root to Indian football. The ensuing Caribbean tour of the national football team is in complete jeopardy as the clubs are reluctant to release players for the tour. Dempo Sports Club, in an official letter, requested the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to release its players from the national camp. Pune FC made a similar request on Subrata Paul and Jeje. The other biggies, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Salgoacar, have shown no interest to release players for the national duty. Under these circumstances, the AIFF has called for an emergency committee meeting to address the situation and to find out an amicable solution. It can be expected that the tussle between the clubs and the country will not ruin the bigger interest of Indian football.
Let us now delve deep into the root of the problem. Season 2011-2012 has not yet begun and most of the clubs have just started their pre- conditioning camps with an objective to ensure success in the I- League and the Federation Cup. The absence of key players may act upon this objective. Moreover, the clubs may not get the service of the key players if they will receive injury during the tour. The club officials also argue that this friendly tour is not a part of the international match calendar and therefore will not contribute to the ranking of the national team. Thus, the top players need not to participate in the Caribbean tour.
On the other hand, the AIFF has made it clear that the growth of football in India depends on the success of the national team and these exposure tours will play a pivotal role in making the national team stronger. Thus, for the interest of the Indian football, the clubs should release the players. The AIFF also argues that the clubs should abide by the Constitution of the apex body which clearly states that the clubs should release the players for national duty.
Till now, there is no indication of breaking the deadlock. However, it is the need of the hour to solve the tussle. Perhaps, the only long term solution is to prepare a comprehensive event calendar for the clubs and the national team. A committee, consisting of the representatives of AIFF, State Associations and Clubs, may be constituted to fulfill this purpose. The national body should also support the clubs in the process of recovery and rehabilitation of a player who receives injury while playing for the national team.
The success of the national team in promoting football in India is of utmost importance. At the same-time, the structure of football cannot survive without the existence of clubs. Therefore, it can be expected that these two major stakeholders of football will work together to make the future of Indian football better and brighter.
Member of Faculty
Naval Tata Centre of Excellence in Sports Management
Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Kolkata