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I League 2017/18: East Bengal write to AIFF questioning fixtures list

East Bengal write to the AIFF questioning 2pm kick offs and why they have to play 3 away games within a week


East Bengal are scheduled to play three away matches in a week, in January
East Bengal are scheduled to play three away matches in a week, in January

What is the Story

The 2017 I-League fixtures were finally released on Tuesday, after what seemed like all eternity, and well, fans and critics of Indian football don't know whether to laugh or cry after looking at the fixtures. With 2pm weekday kickoff ruling the league, fans have voiced their concerns regarding the fixtures and clear favouritism given to the cash-rich Indian Super League.

Kolkata giants East Bengal have been handed a very challenging draw. On paper, East Bengal are the clear favourites to win the league, but after the fixtures were released the club faithful and team management have some questions regarding the fixtures presented to the Red and Gold Brigade.

In Case you didn't know

East Bengal have been perennial bridesmaid of the I-League for sometime now, even though they are the only club to play all the editions of the NFL and I-League till date, they haven't won the league for the last 14 years, something which has been a big thorn for their fans. This year is probably their best chance to win the trophy, but with fixtures like these, it creates serious doubts about East Bengal's chances.

Heart of the Matter

The Club officials, on Tuesday, after receiving the full I League fixture sent a letter to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) questioning two things: 

1 Why there are kick offs scheduled for 2pm on weekdays? 

As everyone knows most of the fans of both the Kolkata big wigs are working class people and on weekdays people have work to attend to. On such circumstances, having a 2pm kick off will have an adverse effect on the attendance figures which in turn will effect the revenue generated from ticket sales. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan rely heavily on the money collected from ticket sales, as they don't have the luxury of having multiple sponsors. 

2 Why do East Bengal have to play 3 away games in a week ?

Even though weekday 2pm kick offs are not something totally new (previously we had 4 pm kick offs) a team having to play 3 away games within a week is nothing short of bizarre.

East Bengal play Neroca in Imphal on December 30, then the Indian Arrows in Delhi on January 2, and then play Churchill Brothers in Goa on January 6. 

Reaction of the People Involved

The club officials refused to get into the blame game and said that they have sent an inquiry to the AIFF, and are waiting for their response. A source close to the club said that even though they are not fully happy with the fixture it is something that is not in their hands, and if they are to become champions, they have to get past all obstacles that come their way. Another official said that the club was waiting for AIFF to clarify certain doubts they have regarding the fixture and once they receive it, only then will things be more clear regarding the fixtures. 

As far as the fans go, there has been a clear out-cry regarding the fixtures, and time slots given to the I-League, with some people even stating that hosting a Kolkata derby at 2pm just kills the game, a derby without lights and the effects created by the fans is nothing.  

Author's Take

East Bengal’s I-League wait has extended to 14 years, and now even before the season had started, they have been handed a fixture which could literally make or break their campaign. But to become champions, every team should get past such obstacles that come their way. All said and done, the AIFF needs to take a second look at the fixtures, and try to improve on it, as a poor fixture list hampers the quality of football on display.

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