JUST WHEN TRAU FC seemed like they were about to make a run for the I-League title, they have suffered a controversial setback.
The club, which made its I-League debut this season having won the 2nd Division League last season, had a tough start but recovered with a win over local rivals NEROCA FC in the league's first Imphal Derby. Following their first victory they went on a tear, notching up back to back wins, upsetting title contenders Churchill Brothers; then defeating Aizawl FC at home on Saturday.
With 14 points from 9 matches, TRAU are trailing second placed Punjab FC just by goal difference. Carrying on with their current form will give them a chance to go top of the table in the near future.
But Sunday morning saw a surprising development. The club's Facebook page put up an update announcing they had sacked their head coach Dimitrius Dimitrou. The post did not go into the details of the reason behind his sacking; only saying it would be made public "after a thorough investigation."
The development is unexpected and the manner in which the announcement was made indicates internal unrest. There have been rumours that after Saturday's match Dimitris Dimitrou - who is a former Manchester City youth coach and has managed Zakakiou who play in the tod division league in Cyprus - had an argument with certain club officials. But perhaps the biggest indication of the reason behind the decision came in the form of a comment made by the official TRAU account under the post; implying that an allegation of match fixing may have played a role.
The allegation has raised several eyebrows because TRAU's perfomance has improved since Dimitrou was re-hired (after being fired before their I-League campaign began); they have won their last four matches and have not lost a single I-League game with Dimitrou at the helm.
If there's any truth to the allegations being made, this matter is now likely to be investigated by the AIFF Disciplinary Committee and SportsRadar, who have been appointed by the All India Football Federation to make sure the integrity of the matches being played in Indian leagues are maintained.
However, Dimitris Dimitrou hit back against the allegation in an interview with SportsKeeda. He accused club official Phulen Meitei of putting himself ahead of the team, and wanting to pick the starting line-up of every match along with trying to re-negotiate his contract to reduce his wage. According to Dimitrou, the disagreement on the new contract terms led to an argument, following which Mr Meitei sacked him and followed up with an implication of match fixing being a factor in order to smear him.
While there have been allegations of attempted match fixing in the past, a foreinger head coach being implicated in the situation - especially in a high profile national level competition like the I-League - is almost unheard of.