In Indian Football players are a commodity utilized well by clubs. They are ready to meet their demands on paper, but are they ready to fulfil the terms? Player Agents are meant to help the players as the middle men. Do we have player agents who work for the players rather than themselves? How often have we seen a talented player fail to fulfill his promise, and go beyond a lavish life style? Questions like these are rarely addressed in Indian football.
At the start of the I-League season, players will be surrounded by big money offers from clubs. These teams and officials have the power and authority to dictate their terms in Indian football. They will come up with good packages which include a hefty salary, flat, food, travel expenses, etc. With these big money offers coming in the range of 20-80 lakhs, Indian players often fall for it without thinking too much.
But in reality these clubs are engaged in a battle for ego and power amongst each other. Even though these inflate the player’s value and his packages, most of the time the club officials find it hard to keep their promises. Most Indian football clubs spend 80-90% of the budget on player recruitment and salaries alone! Then how will they survive in the long run?
A player who had earned Rs. 20,000 – 50,000 per month will be getting offers in the range of 20 – 60 Lakhs, once the competition for his signature increases. When multiple offers come their way, they often forget to reason it logically. Some players only consider the financial aspect, and will be happy rotting on the bench. Even though donning the jersey of a big club itself is an achievement, they forget that their career is going to enter a downward slope unless they make a breakthrough. If they fail there to get regular playing time, a player loses his motivation and often goes the luxurious and lavish life style which leads to many problems later.
Many promising footballers have gone this way. When there is a sudden influx of money, they indulge in a lavish lifestyle and money becomes their benchmark. There is also the problem of projected finances. Players often gets dream contract offers from various clubs, but what happens in the contract period remains a secret.
Indian International Anthony Pereira was released by Mohun Bagan earlier this season when he refused to take a pay cut after agreeing for a move in the summer. He had decided to sign for Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan at the start of the I-League season. He had an offer worth 80 Lakhs per annum on the table and the right winger’s slot was up for grabs in the Mariners ranks. He decided to accept this offer ahead of many others including the ones back at his home in Goa. The story took a twist when the Mohun Bagan officials asked him to take a pay cut. What would have happened if he had remained at the club without taking a pay-cut?
If the club officials were not sure of his quality then why did they offer that much money in first place? Anthony Pereira, an Indian International and an established face in Indian Football circuits is a well known quantity. His quality and abilities are well known and that is the reason why he had so many offers on the table. He might have chosen Mohun Bagan’s offer due to various reasons like playing time, money and good treatment etc. Was he treated fairly by the officials – who made false promises to bring the player on board?
Mohun Bagan asked Anthony Pereira to lower his contract by 20 Lakhs! Isn’t it equal to insulting a player? The majority of the player contracts in Indian football spans only one year. There is no long term plan or investment from the clubs side. Then are the clubs right to lower a contract offer or release a player in the middle of the season, which directly affects his playing career?
It brings notice to some of the cases pending with Players’ Status Committee in AIFF. N.P Pradeep, Steven Dias, Rakesh Masih, Jewel Raja Sheikh, Sandip Nandy, Raiju Gaekwad, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, etc. have sought the help of AIFF in sorting out their contract issues and non payment of fees. It is clear that the financial aspect of club football in India is not clear and transparent. The clubs have their own way most of the times.
Are clubs pulling above their weight to get the players they want? In 2002, when India’s first professional club FC Kochin was disbanded, there was a worrying mention of a big club in Indian football playing a part in their demise. Whether it is true or not is a food for thought, but that again shows negative impacts of misused power and finances.
In Anthony Pereira’s case, it was clear that securing his services for a lower fee was not possible. In the middle of the season, players don’t have many choices and that is where the club tried to force its way. Some players are obliged to follow the demand of earning bread, while the unwilling ones’ futures are put in jeopardy. Anthony Pereira being a well known face got his release and even a new club, but there are many Pereira’s who are warming the benches in clubs for non-playing reasons.
Justin Stephen of Mohammedan Sporting also had to face a similar issue this season. He helped his team to a Durand Cup win and was one of their top performers at the start of the season. But suddenly he was banished to the reserves in the middle of the season. One might wonder if it was due to his performance, but it was difficult to find faults with his game. The Mohammedans officials were looking to make some space for the IMG-R players in the squad as well as in the balance sheets. The choices left for the player was either to become a scapegoat or to put his career in jeopardy.
Justin Stephen’s reported contract amount was worth 40 Lakhs but it remains unclear if he received that amount. If some sources are to be believed, he was asked to lower his contract during the season. He didn’t agree to those demands and the officials didn’t allow him to make another appearance even when Mohammedan SC defence continued to leak goals. The notorious Mohammedan officials had their way and finally released the player, as Justin balked at their demands.
Not many clubs are run professionally in India, nor do we have players/agents professional enough to handle these situations. The system is flawed, and there are crooked minds to make the best use out of these situations. India needs to adopt a professional strategy and system in sports. The finances are one aspect which needs to be handled with care, be it the players or the clubs. For that integrity and transparency is a must and the clubs need to look for long term stability.