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Super Cup 2019 -- Several matches in jeopardy over top division clubs' boycott

MORE SUPER CUP MATCHES are likely to be scrapped after I-League clubs' boycott of the tournament looks set to continue.

The top division clubs announced the drastic measure earlier this month after the AIFF rejected repeated pleas from the clubs for a meeting with the Federation president Praful Patel over their concerns of several top division clubs being forcefully relegated to second tier due to a re-structuring of the domestic football league system.

Three I-League clubs - Minerva Punjab, Aizawl FC and Gokulam Kerala FC - did not field their teams in the Super Cup qualifiers, leading to those matches being cancelled.

AIFF, under pressure, fianlly granted a mid-April audience to the club alliance. The clubs, in turn, said they would play in the Super Cup as long as the matches of the clubs who boycotted the earlier matches are re-scheduled. The AIFF declined, and a tug of war began between the Federation and the clubs. And finally, just a day before the tournament begins, the rebel clubs seem to have stayed firm on their decision.

Uncertainty hangs over several matches

Mohun Bagan had already indicated they were not interested in playing in Super Cup unless Minerva, Gokulam and Aizawl also get a chance to play. Today, East Bengal have also decided not to participate.

East Bengal were visibly divided over the question of participating in the Super Cup; their commercial partners and majority owners of the football team Quess did not wish to play, while the club's representatives were in favour of playing. 

The disagreement led to an open political pressure game between the two sides, with the EB officials organising an 'EB President's XI' and trying to register it to play in Super Cup to bypass Quess; but it did not work out because this alternative squad was not a licensed football club.

But today at a board meeting it was clarified that East Bengal, ultimately, will not take part in the Super Cup, which takes the number of clubs confirmed to withdraw from the tournament to five, and the number may grow.

Chennai City FC, current Champions of India and a prominent part of the rebel club alliance, are still undeclared in terms of whether or not they will play in the tournament, while two clubs - Churchill Brothers and Real Kashmir FC - may end up participating despite being with the rebel alliance at one point.

There's been no word from NEROCA FC regarding their participation in the tournament. Indian Arrows, being an AIFF-owned side, are the only I-League team that participated in Super Cup 2019 already, beating ISL franchise Kerala Blasters 2-0 in the only qualifier match that was ultimately held.

The Super Cup's round of 16 will kick off tomorrow with a match between Mumbai City FC and Chennaiyin FC. On Saturday, Indian Arrows will face FC Goa. But by the time Sunday rolls around, three Super Cup matches may end up being cancelled or declared as "walkovers" due to the top division clubs' continued protest against forceful relegation.

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