The postponement of IMG-Reliance’s proposed Indian Super League to September-November 2014 has left in the lurch about 60 Indian footballers who had signed up to be a part of it.

Mohammedan Sporting had broken out of the Indian Professional Football Clubs Association’s earlier agreement to not sign IMG-R-contracted players and roped in Syed Rahim Nabi, Manish Maithani and Mehrajuddin Wadoo. However, many more are yet to find a club.

At a recent meeting in Kolkata IPFCA decided to allow clubs to sign players on loan from the Federation’s disbanded development squad Pailan Arrows, while others players will be eligible only if they break out of their contracts with IMG-R.

But most of the 13 I-League clubs have almost filled their 30-player slots.

I-League CEO Sunanda Dhar is still not perturbed. “Players from the national squad and Pailan Arrows amount to about 30, and I don’t think they will have a problem finding a club,” he says. “The rest were never in demand — no club was eager to sign them before — and it will be no different now.”

Dhar’s statement, while lacking empathy, also puts a question mark on the very quality of the proposed league. Each of the eight teams in the ISL is supposed to sign eight professional Indian players and four under-23 players from its catchment area. And the CEO’s quality assessment promises a league with players who are not capable of making it to the top tier of a country ranked 154 in the recent FIFA rankings.

IPFCA member and Churchill Brothers CEO Valanka Alemao accuses IMG-R and AIFF of high-handedness and also questions the legal sanctity of the IPL-styled league.

“FIFA regulations on the Status and Transfers of Players do not allow auctioning of athletes and they recognise only ‘engaging’ and ‘releasing’ of players,” Valanka wrote in a representation to AIFF president Praful Patel on October 26.

“The AIFF or IMG-R had no clue about what they were doing and bypassed laws and regulations of FIFA and AFC in their hurry. Now they are throwing excuses to get out of the rut,” she says.

“Most of the clubs have not been paid their dues while the AIFF has been squandering money to promote ISL. It has been a classic case of mistreating one’s own child (I-League) while showering goodies on someone else’s kid (ISL).”

Valanka says: “The players too should have thought about the long-term implications and not just money before signing these contracts; no club or coach would want a player who is not loyal. But we have to look after their interests now.” 

One of the IMG-R contracted stars, Nirmal Chettri, who is yet to find a club, says: “We haven’t officially heard from IMG-R yet. We want to play and I hope IMG-R’s main priority now is to find a club for us. But I don’t think I can break out of my contract at this stage.”

The cancellation has also brought about a need to tweak the I-League schedule. “We will reschedule the I-League in a week’s time and utilise the available window in February-March and try completing all the matches by April,” Dhar said.

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