Federation Cup treatment another show of AIFF's indifference?
“Amra kara? Mohun Bagan, Jitlo kara? Mohun Bagan” (Who are we? Mohun Bagan. Who won? Mohun Bagan)
The shouts from the passionate Mohun Bagan fans filled the night air at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Guwahati last Sunday as their beloved side lifted a record-extending 14th Federation Cup. The win many might say was a final vindication to one of the most prolific attacking sides that Indian football has seen in recent years.
The Mariners frontline of Sony Norde, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Katsumi Yusa alongside Cornell Glen has been responsible for some of the most sumptuous football served up this season. But this might be it. The end of an era. But that is a discussion for another day.
The conclusion of the Federation Cup also marked the end of the Indian football that reserved the biggest sting till the end.
In the aftermath of All India Football Federation’s recent roadmap for the future, all this jubilation deep down inside, somewhere, somehow felt hollow. The Federation Cup, which had been the country’s biggest trophy since it’s inception 39 years back in 1977 may not even exist soon, if AIFF has its way.
No time for your own cup?
“It would have been good to see Mr Praful Patel in the stands. However, it really didn’t matter. All that really meant to me was the Federation Cup,” said a Mohun Bagan stalwart on the condition of anonymity.
For the players, it might not have mattered, but for football fanatics around India? It surely does.
Being the president of the AIFF, Mr. Praful Patel, the man in the literal hot seat failed to make an appearance at the final of what is the biggest cup trophy in Indian football, setting off the buzzing noises yet again.
“He is a busy man. He couldn’t make it to the final due to other engagements,” quipped Ankur Dutta, a member of the AIFF executive committee and the main man behind the scenes for football at Assam.
But the President giving a no-show at Indian football’s crown jewel event? Something there just doesn’t feel right.
If we roll our eyes towards Europe and if we had found one of the major footballing country’s president absent from the main Cup event, it would have burnt the back pages for sure.
But this is India. And we would probably be asked to “understand” his busy profile. Mr. Patel is indeed a high profile figure. A former central minister, Mr. President carries a heavy political background along with the prime seat of the Indian football scene like every other sports board in the country.
However, not making an appearance because of other “important” things to attend can seem to many as inexcusable.
An opportunity missed
At a time, when his mere presence in the stadium would have shown faith in not only the clubs who kept Indian football afloat all these years, but also in Federation’s own annual football tournament, the President failed to deliver.
Mohun Bagan along with a number of other I-League clubs might be excused for having a sense of being let down by Mr. Patel and co’s vision of the future, which in all fairness have thrown all the legacy clubs from Mohun Bagan right down to Salgaocar, into the wilderness.
Whilst I-League President Sunanda Sanyal along with chief of the referees’ association Gautam Das did make an appearance at the venue, it should have been a no-brainer to be present there amongst the personalities.
With many clubs contemplating their future in the game while others lacking confidence in the board to take the right decision, the recent Federation Cup final was a wasted opportunity to reinstate faith in the national body. The opportunity was blown in royal fashion.
A final in haste and how!
Right from the get-go, it felt like not many gave a toss about the tournament except for the fans. Whilst fans of Mohun Bagan AC and Aizawl FC from all around the country made the pilgrimage to Guwahati for the showcase event, many were surprised at the lack of buzz in and around the grounds.
According to our sources around the stadium, there were no banners to be seen in and around the stadium even a day before the ground. “Quite frankly none of the locals seems to even have even an idea that the final was taking place here,” lamented one of the many fans who had travelled hundred of miles to the venue.
Another, who was sitting in the United States was disheartened as the award ceremony saw an IPS officer give out the medals. Meanwhile, the handing over of the trophy itself was done by the daughter of a Mohun Bagan official.
"The finals were supposed to take place in Kashmir, it was all shifted to Guwahati at the eleventh hour. Thus, we were not able to make many arrangements," pacified Mr. Ankur Dutta to our queries regarding the abovementioned issues.
All this just goes to show the low regard even the Federation has for its own tournament. Making people wonder whether the association is really serious about India’s future in the game has always been one of the hot topics in Indian football.
However, with the way the Federation Cup was conducted, it certainly gives more fuel to the fire in light of recent events in Indian football. Will the envisioned I-League and League 2 see similar treatment if AIFF's initial proposal is carried out?