Indian Football is passing through one of its most crucial phases and even before the dust settled over I-League, speculations for the next season started to fill the air. The advent of corporate clubs has been greatly discussed and with most of the clubs not performing up to expectations, several new coaches are expected to be announced. The chit-fund scam in Kolkata has also taken a toll on the transfer activities of clubs.
A Change in Guard – The Arrival Of New Coaches
Following a rather forgettable season Salgaocar have appointed Derrick Pereira as their head-coach. After masterminding Pune FC’s rise to the top, Pereira will look to take Salgaocar back to the top after having spent more than 20 years at the club as a player. Pereira known for spotting young players and will be able to groom youngsters in the club. It is believed that Chika Wali and Karma Tsewang have also followed Pereira to the Goan club from Pune. Pune FC have appointed experienced Dutch coach Mike Snoei as their head coach after a recommendation from Technical Director Rob Bann. Snoei is a UEFA Pro License holder and has also represented the Dutch national team. All eyes will be on Snoei who is expected to take Pune FC to the next level after the club finished runners-up last season.
After 16 years at the helm of Dempo, Armando Calcao parted ways with the club after a disappointing season which saw them finish fifth. Arthur Papas has signed a three year deal with the Goan giants and it marks the beginning of a new era in the club’s history. Dempo have already been busy in the transfer season signing a host of young players.
On the other hand, another highly successful coach Trevor Morgan, citing family reasons, also resigned as the head coach of East Bengal after three memorable seasons in Kolkata. In spite of leading Churchill Brothers to the title, Subhash Bhowmick also quit from his post as the Technical Director of Churchill Brothers due to differences with the club owners. Names of several high-profile coaches are doing the round and it looks likely that a foreigner will take over East Bengal again.
Advent Of New Corporate Backed Clubs
AIFF extended the deadline for submission of tenders thrice. A dramatic situation unfolded when the AIFF extended the deadline for a third time after having announced that it had received three bids the after second one. Two clubs namely, JSW and Mumabi Tigers have been given the green light by the AIFF to play in the I-League next season. JSW will play their home matches in Bangalore while Mumbai Tigers will be based in Mumbai. A Consortium from Kerala is forming the third club and will have their base in Kochi but have been asked certain assurances before they are cleared to play. The third extension is now believed to have been given due to interest shown by Queen’s Park Rangers to start a club from Chennai but it is now clear that they will be inducted only in 2014/15 season
The advent of four corporate clubs is likely to give I-League a pan-Indian image and will provide the local players in the states of Mumbai, Karnataka and Kerala to showcase their talent. New corporate clubs are expected to develop infrastructure and focus on youth development – two factors which may help the growth of Indian Football.
A Conference Model For I-League
AIFF in its emergency meeting decided to adopt a Conference model for the I-League wherein the proposed 16 teams for the league will be divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences. The top-four from each Conference would advance to play the final round. While the decision is expected to cut down the expenditure for AIFF, it must be pointed out that the top 5 out of the top 7 teams – Churchill Brothers, Dempo, Pune FC, Salgaocar and Sporting Clube in recently concluded I-League fall into the Western Conference and this makes the AIFF’s decision to split the league highly debatable.
The AIFF also decided to play Federation Cup on a home and away basis and decided to have a qualifying round for second division clubs. The governing body also decided to restrict the number of foreign players in the state league to two and I-League second division to one but strangely allowed the I-League clubs to field all four foreign players in the starting XI. The decision come as a surprise given the loud clamor to reduce the foreign players in I-League so that the Indian players can get a chance to play, specially the forwards.
The one good step that the AIFF took after an appeal by the clubs was to allow the clubs to register a maximum 30 players out of which a minimum five would be required to be U-23. The clubs had appealed for this decision to be taken considering their financial stability in mind. The clubs believe this will help clubs cut down the expenditure and give opportunities to younger players to break into the senior team.
A Bizzare Transfer Season
Transfer seasons in India are often dictated by foreign players who indulge in various tactics to increase their price tag. The Tolgay Ozbey transfer issue, where on one hand Mohun Bagan claimed that Tolagy had signed for them while on the other hand East Bengal claimed that Tolgay had taken token money to sign for them, resulted in ugly war of words between fans and officials of both side. It often happens that players claim an offer from one club to bargain with the other club and as a result the clubs have to suffer. In order to put an end to this Dempo and Salgaocar have entered into a ‘no poaching’ pact according to which the two clubs have decided not to approach each other players without consulting with each other first.
The chit fund scam seems to have hit the Kolkata clubs very badly with Prayag being the worst hit. Prayag had a busy transfer season last year when they paid impressive salaries to a host of players including Gouramangi Singh and Subrata Pal, both of whom have been released this season. Even the budget of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal seems to have been reduced. Mohun Bagan has released Tolgay after failing to agree to his salary demands while East Bengal has also reportedly asked its players to play on a pay-cut. After paying insane salaries to players last time around, normalcy seems to be returning to Indian Football with respect to transfers.
These are indeed crucial times for Indian Football and though the season has ended, a number of key decisions are likely to be made – decisions which will shape the Indian Football in future.