THE AIFF PRESIDENT Mr Praful Patel has claimed that the Indian Super League is a disruptive force introduced by AIFF to shake things up in Indian football and move it towards progress.
Speaking at the launch of FIFA Development Officer Mr Shaji Prabhakaran's book on grassroots development, Back to the Roots, Mr Patel said,
"Make no mistake, both I-League and ISL are tournaments of the AIFF. ISL is the cat we unleashed among pigeons to be a disruptor and push things forward."
The metaphor seems to be particularly effective since multiple I-League clubs have withdrawn from the top division --including Pune FC, Royal Wahingdoh, Salgaocar and Sporting Clube de Goa -- citing ISL as the reason. Indeed, cats are known to kill pigeons.
Mr Patel also took an aim at so-called "legacy clubs" who according to him were no longer evolving with times,
"There's all that talk about my legacy club did this, my club did that, I've been playing this game for donkey's years so everyone should come and touch my feet for my achievements... I was just in Doha to see the AFC Cup final. For the first time an Indian team was playing there, and that club is just 3 years old. You will see more and more of such things happening in the coming years."
Although the AIFF president cited Bengaluru FC as a sort of antidote to the "legacy clubs" (a nod towards the long-time top division clubs from Kolkata and Goa), it's hard to see how that works into the logic of ISL being justified as a disruptor; because everything BFC have done is pretty much antithetical of what ISL franchises do; whether in terms of fulfilling AFC criteria, engagement in grassroot development or giving importance to Indian players in key positions in the first team.
Mr Patel said that he was in charge of Indian football during a transition period, when things were most difficult,
"A few years down the line when everything will be much better, I will have moved on by then. But for now, I am here facing all the brickbats as we move through these tough times. I am happy to accept the criticism as long as the work gets done and our initiatives have a positive impact on Indian football."