THE AIFF HAS FINALLY woken up from its stupor and decided to look into the situation in Goa, where two top division football clubs have just pulled out of the I-League in tandem, and a third club looks all set to join them in their protest exit.
A couple of days ago, Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa issued a joint statement saying they were withdrawing their first team from participation in the I-League due to AIFF and IMG-Reliance proposing a blue-print for the future of Indian domestic football that was heavily favourable to the ISL franchises, at direct cost of the I-League clubs - the real football clubs playing in the nation's real league - most of whom are likely to be forced to get relegated to the new second division league (League One) unless they can shell out a massive franchise fee to IMG-R for a chance to play in the relegation-less ISL: an amount that surpasses the annual budget of most of these clubs.
With Salgaocar and SCG gone, the I-League is now left with 7 clubs. There are rumours that Ozone FC is being brought into the league as another corporate club from Bangalore. But further complicating the situation is the fact that Dempo SC, one of the most successful football clubs in India's history who recently re-entered the I-League by winning the 2nd Division League, are planning to withdraw from the league too, as what's being billed as a show of solidarity for their fellow Goa clubs.
But the situation with Dempo is more complicated than that. Its owner, Srinivas Dempo, is a co-owner of ISL franchise FC Goa and a vice president of AIFF. Being a top official of the Indian FA himself, if he decides to pull his own club from the country's top division league, it sends a particularly negative statement to potential investors about potential discord brimming within Indian football's top brass.
So in order to persuade the Dempo SC management not to withdraw its team from the I-League, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das is flying to Goa to hold discussions with them.
The timing of Dempo SC's decision to turn rogue is particularly suspicious. It's been obvious that its management care more about FC Goa than Dempo SC, and the two are going to merge once the "re-structuring" of leagues happens in the 2017-18 season. So pulling off now to land AIFF in a spot seems to be part of a bigger picture.
Dempo SC has been used as a front to get things done on behalf of FC Goa before. And it wouldn't be surprising if in a few days Dempo SC decide to play in I-League 2016-17 after all, and the 15 points deducted from FC Goa for their role in that atrocious controversy surrounding Elano gets lessened or pardoned altogether.