MUMBAI: I-League aspirants U Mumba were on Sunday told by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) top brass to postpone their trials for the upcoming I-League season until further notice.
Ronnie Screwvala-owned USports had told the AIFF of their intention of putting up a team in the ILeague. While they didn’t yet get the final nod, they were told to go ahead with their trials.
The trials were supposed to start on June 18 and continue for the next 10 days.
USports CEO Supratik Sen told TOI that they were suddenly told to hold on.
“We got over 3,500 applicants for the trials. On Sunday, the AIFF told us to wait till further notice. I have no idea what’s delaying this. We just want Mumbai to have a football team in the I-League, a team that has maximum players from the city, thereby promoting the sport.
“Being a new team, it will take time in putting together a squad and therefore we had requested the AIFF for permission to hold the trials early,” Sen said.
It seems absurd that a football federation tells a team to stop trials of their club, but AIFF sources said they have told U Mumba to postpone the trials and not cancel them.
“AIFF want to first resolve the problem they are currently facing with the two leagues – the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League. Once they reach an amicable solution, only then they can go ahead with adding new teams to the league,” a source said.
The conflict between the I-League clubs and the AIFF has been going on ever since the inaugural season of the ISL, with the clubs lamenting the step-brotherly treatment they’re receiving despite officially being the top league of Indian football. It escalated with six teams pulling out of the Hero Super Cup earlier this year, and a solution seems nowhere on the cards.
This fractious relationship between the AIFF and the I-League clubs will affect teams who are genuinely interested in putting up a football team.
Sen says they have no option but to wait.
“I was conducting I-League trials. But if I’m told that my spot in the I-League is not confirmed, I don’t see the point of having the trials as I made it clear to everyone that if selected, they would play for an I-League team, nothing less. It doesn’t make sense to give them false hope,” he said.
U Mumba have qualified for the I-League second division by finishing in the top half of the Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) Elite Division. Sen, however, has made it clear that they’re only interested in playing in the I-League.