Just when the fans were trying to catch their breath after a scintillating season of top flight Indian football, the AIFF threw the cat (and a fat one at that) among the pigeons in their bid to take Indian football to the next level.
Owing to the massive “success” of the league past season, which saw jam packed stadiums, league reaching out to different states in India apart from usual suspects of Goa and Kolkata, clubs making money through path breaking sponsorship deals and merchandising contracts with leading sports brands around the world, AIFF chipped in with their own trick of the trade in a ‘urgently’ held meeting at Dwarka, New Delhi. Without a doubt, Indian football had a year to remember, after these changes were made public.
If the goal of participating in the 2018 World Cup in Russia and beating Spain along the way wasn’t easy enough, the AIFF introduced a set of rules that it believes would redefine and exponentially increase the growth of the game in regions like Daman and Diu, Madhya Pradesh and Andaman – Nicobar Islands. Here are some of the selected rules which, could very soon be adopted by many European countries! Head coach Wim Koevermans is already rumored to send a copy of these changes to the Dutch Football association, which could eventually help their deteriorating local academies to feed more players to the national team.
Two clubs, backed by the Jindal and Dodsal Group based out of Bangalore and Mumbai respectively would be seen in the much awaited edition of the I-League next year. This will give exposure to the local talent that has come up the ranks and waited for their opportunity to impress the national coach. Even more exciting is that people can now spend extra time on the AIFF website reading prize-wining works of fiction detailing how the money amassed by inclusion of these teams directly into the league, will be used in developing football at the grassroots. The section is huge hit on the website where in parents vote for their children’s’ school to be a part of AIFF’s amazing programme for football development.
The 2013-14 season will now be now based on Conference model. This could be a huge hit, especially keeping in mind that every year the federation struggles to manage the over enthusiastic crowd during the course of the league. The conference structure will help other well known teams to stand up and be counted after their immaculate contribution to Indian football. Teams from states like West Bengal, Goa and Maharashtra will now have a cap on the number of teams they push in the league, which rightfully fits against their murky contribution to the beautiful game in the sub continent as a whole. Major league Soccer in the United States has already been very successful using the conference format, and now India is all set to implement the same.
Erstwhile EPL minnows Queens Park Rangers (QPR) have shown an interest in sponsoring a team in the league in next two years, and the AIFF have welcomed it. This is one of the most proactive decisions taken during the brainstorming session among the top officials in AIFF. With India having already made its presence felt in the English Premier League, having driven Blackburn Rovers into the ground, the AIFF wants to help England return the favour.
In addition to this, the federation has bought down the participation fees in the league to peanuts. Some of the state football associations like Orrisa, Madhya Pradesh have laughed off the questions of why suddenly AIFF has reduced the fee so much.
To place the cherry on top of the awesome cake of football scene we have in our country, professional football players will now have a choice of leagues to ply their trade in. As reported, AIFF is backing an IPL (cricket T20) style football league sponsored by a much familiar face in Indian football by now, IMG Reliance. The marketing partners have already roped some of the greats of the game from the modern era like Beckham and Raul despite the insistence of their agents to the contrary. One of the franchisees is also believed to turn down the offer from David to play from his team, such is the level expected. Many pundits cited that regularization and licensing of the I-league clubs had more probability to fail. We have live example of Japan and how their J-League has fallen like a pack of domino’s. AIFF deserve a mighty pat on their back for coming up with such a alliance with a huge media partner.
Albeit it was meeting held on a very short notice, the credit should go to the elite panel who came up with the list of impactful planned steps. Implementing these would certainly induct a lot of professionalism which the I-league was missing earlier. After oscillating for so many years, the past jump in India’s FIFA ranking has been like the Rockefellar building in the Manhattan. It is now up to the players and the fans to gulp in this huge change, adapt to the ever changing environment- all for the betterment of the game.
With Great power, comes great responsibility – Fascinating indeed, they concurred.