Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 21
Raising objections about the match schedule, several I-League teams, including East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, have written to the All-India Football Federation (AIFF).
The Kolkata giants, along with teams such as Minerva Punjab FC and Gokulam Kerala FC, have complained about timing, travel and even the scheduling of some of the home matches during the I-League, which starts from November 25.
Doubts have been raised about the venue of East Bengal’s first home match, against defending champions Aizawl FC. As per the fixtures list, the match is scheduled for November 28, which is two days after Atletico de Kolkata’s home match against Pune City in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the same venue. “They are saying we can’t play there as the stadium cannot be released within 48 hours of a match,” a source close to the East Bengal team said.
“They are saying that the match will be shifted to Barasat stadium. If that happens, then the match will not be telecast live. These things are bad for the league. We are waiting for the AIFF to clear the matter,” he added.
AIFF secretary general Kushal Das, however, said he was unaware of the matter. “We have not heard anything in this regard till now. But the clubs have to understand that Star agreeing to telecast the matches is in itself a very big thing so they have to adjust a bit,” Das added.
Gokulam FC, a Mallapuram-based side, were told to shift to Kozhikode because they did not have floodlights. However, despite shifting, Gokulam FC have been short-changed as a majority of their matches will be held at 2pm.
“We have a big fan base in Mallapuram. They told us to shift and then we get to know that most of our matches have been scheduled for 2pm. Will the fans come at that time?” Gokulam coach Bino George said. “We have written to the AIFF. The timing will be equally harsh for both the players and the fans,” George said.
Even Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen said that afternoon matches will be difficult for his players. “I am okay with afternoon matches in the North as it is relatively cooler during these times, but playing at that time in the South will be problematic for the players,” Sen said.
The harshest criticism of the scheduling came from Minerva Punjab FC team owner Ranjit Bajaj. Minerva is to play Churchill on December 29 in Goa, and already the flight and hotel prices have skyrocketed.
“Due to the New Year’s Eve, the flight tickets have risen to Rs 38000. Hotel rates in a three-star have gone up by four times,” said Bajaj.
“Even the rate of the bus that we normally hire for Rs 3000 has gone up to Rs 30000. If we go there we risk losing half of our budget. We have requested the AIFF to reschedule,” added Bajaj, whose team will take a road trip from Aizawl to Kolkata to catch a flight for Goa.
“All the games in the Northeast could have been held together. Same for the Kolkata and Goa matches. This could have been planned better,” he added.
The Minerva owner was particularly peeved about the timings of some of the home matches. “We play a few matches in Ludhiana and then shift to the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula. We had requested that the matches be held at 2pm as the weather in December is perfect and the sun sets by 4-4:30pm. But there they want an 8:30pm start. Do they ever listen?” Bajaj said.
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