Aizawl FC, the newly crowned champions of India, are mulling drastic measures which include fasting unto death if they are excluded from the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) proposed merger between the Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League.
The AIFF have been in talks with the three bigwigs of I-League - Bengaluru FC, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal - over including them in the proposed top flight league which will also include the eight ISL franchises but were put in a tight spot by Aizawl’s surprising league win.
The team from the North-East are under no illusions as to the reality of the situation and have made it clear that they will go to any lengths to be included in the new top division.
Robert Royte, owner of The People’s Club , spoke to Goal and reiterated his demands and the countermeasures the club have been planning.
“We have already written to the AIFF claiming a place in the new merged new league. Till now we've received no response. Being the champions in the top national league, if any team is demoted to the 2nd division, naturally that will invite protests of all kinds. Anything can happen,” he said.
When asked about several quotes attributed to AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das where he says Aizawl will have to play in the second division, Royte responded, “I don't know if they (quotes) are genuine or not, but from his statement, there is every likelihood that Aizawl will be relegated to the 2nd division. This is in spite of Aizawl being newly crowned champions in the national league.”
He then went on to list the contingency plans Aizawl have already chalked up - “We will have people fasting unto death. Because there will already be big processions in Yangon (Myanmar) and in and around FIFA headquarters, even in Maryland of USA.”
“A list of volunteers have already submitted their names. We also have protests targeting the AFC headquarters (Jakarta). Even many fans in other cities of India are united for our cause.”
However, the 50-year-old politician from Mizoram went on to state that such drastic measures will be embraced only if dialogue with AIFF fails to produce results.
“Our initial line of action is to appeal to the AIFF to enable Aizawl FC to remain in the new merged entity,” he remarked. “We hope AIFF will do the needful to prevent Aizawl's exclusion from the top division.”
“If that request isn't heard in the correct manner, then we are planning to meet Mr. Praful Patel, the AIFF President, and alongside the Sports Minister and Prime Minister of India to apprise them of our grievances.
“We are keeping in touch with the Governor and chief minister of Mizoram and also the Governor of Nagaland who is a patron of Aizawl, Mr. Padmanabha Acharya. And I am planning to appeal to all Members of Parliament (MPs) from North-East to support the cause of Aizawl FC. For the sake of Justice and fairness in the football league.”
“If none these methods work, we will approach the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). My friends are there in the AFC and they will make arrangements for meeting between the AFC president and the officials of Aizawl FC,” he further added.
Mr. Royte went on to claim that the protests will not be limited to India and hinted at demonstrations in Europe and North America. He went on to suggest that the methods will be of drastic nature, including barring of cities and fasts.
“And Finally, if these means of requests aren't working we will resort to protests, in the form of hunger strike, processions, barring of cities. These protests will not only happen in India but all over the world.”
“Aizawl FC has a large chain of network and activism. Europe, America and other major countries. Aizawl has a huge following outside India viz. Rangoon and Manila (Philippines). They are very keen to have a big procession and protest about the exclusion of Aizawl FC if it happens,” he sounded the warning.