LAST YEAR, the Indian Super League courted controversy when it turned out that one of its franchises, the John Abraham-owned NorthEast United, paying their Indian players (all loaned from then-shareholder Shillong Lajong) with daily wages rather than giving them professional contracts. This time, even before the ISL has kicked off, a new controversy is knocking on its door, involving a contract dispute between defender Biswajit Saha and Atletico de Kolkata.
In a written complaint to AIFF, ex Mohun Bagan and Sporting Clube de Goa player Biswajit Saha has alleged that Atletico de Kolkata have turned their back on a 2 year contract they had signed with him in 2014, to secure his services during ISL 2014 and 2015, worth Rs 18 lakhs per year.
According to this TOI article, the contract was terminated when ATK head coach Antonio Habas decided he did not want Saha in his team. Subsequently, Saha was dropped from the list of players retained by ISL franchises and put up in the 2015 ISL Domestic Draft as a "free agent" (priced at Rs 16 lakhs), where he did not get picked by any team. This leaves him without a team in the 2014-15 season.
In the inaugural ISL, Biswajit made 11 appearances for Atletico de Kolkata. He was among the first wave of players to sign up for ISL in 2013. He played part of the 2013-14 season on loan at I-League 2nd Division side Eagles FC from Kerala. He was loaned to Sporting Clube de Goa by ATK during the I-League 2014-15.
It is unclear exactly what caused the fallout between Saha and Habas, but money may have played a part. The Rs 5.5 crore limit of spending on domestic players, coupled with the Draft being flooded with surplus players leading to a large drop in asking price, made it profitable for franchises to release a player and pick up him, or someone else of equal if not better quality, for much less. It has also resulted in many players being left without a team for the 2014-15 season, just like the 27 year old left back Biswajit Saha.
It will be interesting to see how AIFF reacts to this situation. Turning back on a player's contract is a serious offence, and is punishable under strict regulations set by FIFA. But since ISL is not a FIFA-recognized tournament (and its franchises do not possess the necessary AFC license to be recognized as football clubs) so it is not certain if those rules will be applied in this case. On top of it, there is an added interest for AIFF and IMG-Reliance to shield their showpiece tournament from any negative publicity.
Atletico de Kolkata are yet to respond to this situation.