The advent of the Indian Super League has been a boon for Indian football. Praful Patel, the President of the All India Football Association, lauded the roadmap for Indian football stating that the changes have indeed benefited all stakeholders.
"We are seeing a big change in football with professionalism coming in. There is more money coming into the game, and the viewership has also been on the rise. We are also very happy to see the number of youngsters, both boys, and girls taking part in the sport," Praful Patel said.
"We have hosted the FIFA U17 World Cup for boys in 2017, and will host the U17 World Cup for girls next year. These are very important developments for the future of Indian football. I am happy, not only as AIFF President but as an AFC and FIFA Board member, that Indian football is on the rise, and I am very happy to see Indian football going in the right direction," he added.
When asked about the likes of Dempo and Salgaocar and the subsequent privatization of football, the AIFF President said: "There is no privatization of football, these are leagues. And these leagues are happening with the full approval of AFC and FIFA."
"Historically whatever was the traditional way of football has to change at some time. Clubs cannot sustain themselves without money. We have to bring this in because it's good for players, clubs, and fans. Unless there is a healthy economic system for football, it will not survive in the long run," Praful Patel said.
I-League and ISL to have promotion and relegation from 2023: Praful Patel
In a rather interesting development, Praful Patel also went on to state that there will be an integration between the ISL and the I-League in a few years' time. He also went on to state that a few clubs in the I-League are currently being encouraged to find good financial partners to get integrated within the ISL.
"We have integrated the I-League and the ISL in a way that promotion and relegation would take place. It is no more a closed league. It was a closed league only for the first few years," Praful Patel said.
"From 2023, the ISL club and the I-League will have promotion-relegation. The last club of the ISL will go into the I-League and the league club will be promoted to the ISL. It is no more a closed league and the I-League and the ISL will now co-exist as League 1 and League 2," he said.
Praful Patel also hinted that Churchill Brothers, a football club owned by former Goa Chief Minister Mr Churchill Alemao, have been encouraged to integrate themselves in the ISL. With football in India having become something of a commercial sport, Dempo and Salgaocar, two clubs with a rich history in Indian football, have shut their doors. At the moment, there is speculation that Churchill Brothers could suffer the same fate.
"In 2020, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have joined the ISL. Hopefully Mr. Churchill (owner of Churchill Brothers) will also get a good financial partner and come into the ISL in the near future," he added.
When asked whether the AIFF can help in any way, Praful Patel said, "The AIFF cannot help any club getting a financial partner, it is a governing body. We are not a commercial organization, but I can tell you as the President of AIFF that football is in the right direction, and Goa will have a very good future in the larger pie of Indian football."Published 27 Oct 2020, 16:55 IST