OVER THE LAST YEAR, A COMMITTEE appointed by AFC and FIFA went around the country interviewing players, club officials and other stakeholders of Indian football, from top level down to the grassroots.
Their aim was to come up with a roadmap that would help India solve the current mess of having two simultaneous leagues, I-League and ISL, vying for attention, so that we can adopt a unified, singular league pyramid in a way that's acceptable to everyone.
About three months ago, a final version of the report was prepared. Some details about it, mainly its proposal to go ahead with a restructuring of India's league football system, was leaked to a newspaper a few weeks ago. Following that, the AIFF as well as the AFC's top brass tried to play the matter down saying no such report has been submitted, and muddied the waters around the report by speculating whether this was an early draft.
But TFG learned that this was not an early version but the final report. It is, however, yet to be officially submitted to the AIFF from AFC.
Once AIFF get the report, they and their commercial partners IMG-Reliance, for the most part, retain the right to pick and choose which measures suggested in the report they want to implement. But the original suggestions that go far beyond just the matter of I-League and ISL, made based on information the committee members gained by speaking to numerous people who have spent decades in executing various ground level roles Indian football, may not be enacted or conveyed to the fans.
Which is why TFG has obtained a copy of this report, and this article aims to represent in detail the revelatory picture of Indian football it paints, along with its unique suggestions it offers that, if implemented, can solve some long standing issues in Indian football that go back decades, affecting players, clubs and associations from the top division down to the state level.
The report is called "The Sustainable Development of Top Level Indian Club Football - A Road Map." It's signed by Alex Phillips (Head of Asia-Europe Affairs, AFC, Seconded to AFC from UEFA) and Nic Coward (Professional Football Consultant, FIFA).
And it asserts the following crucial points that at once reveal where Indian football lost its way, and at the same time mention specific solutions to overcome them and find a path to all-encompassing progress...