Mizoram-based club Aizawl FC will return to the top flight of Indian football after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided to reinstate them in the I-League for the 2016/17 season. The decision was made by the Executive Committee even though the club from the north-east was relegated at the end of the 2015/16 season.
Last season was nine clubs taking part in the I-League and even though Aizawl finished eighth, ahead of DSK Shivajians who finished last, they were relegated because the Shivajians were immune from relegation. The Pune-based club had received a direct entry into the I-League while Aizawl had qualified after finishing first in the I-League second division.
Much to the joy of the fans who have been waiting for an update from the AIFF, Praful Patel, the President of All India Football Federation, said: “Aizawl will be a part of the I-League.” Patel chaired the Executive Committee while I-League CEO Sunando Dhar and AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das were also present.
“We are looking to promote teams from different regions in the I-League and that policy will always be maintained by the AIFF.”
“Keeping in mind the heartwarming performance of Aizawl FC in the last edition, the Committee unanimously decided to give them a ticket to play in the 2016-17 edition.” – AIFF
Meanwhile, Goan club Salgaocar will not be taking part in the I-League next season. They follow in the footsteps of other Indian clubs such as Royal Wahingdoh and Pune FC who opted not to take part in the country’s top division. However, Dempo and Sporting Clube de Goa will take part in the I-League.
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|8||Aizawl FC (R)||16|
Patel was quick to point out that Aizawl FC were not a replacement for Salgaocar.
“Aizawl FC is not a replacement for Salgaocar FC,” Patel said. “I have been contacted by many parties to set up teams in the I-League and we will also begin advertising to let people know that we are welcoming teams to the I-League.”
Aizawl had also won over fans around the country after they reached the Federation Cup final in spite of initially getting relegated at the end of the I-League season. The Reds had beaten champions Bengaluru FC in the first round and Sporting Goa in the second round before falling to Mohun Bagan in the final.