Football clubs relent, India’s Caribbean tour on
By Gareth Conde
The streets of London are not the only place where peace seems to be finally breaking out. The ongoing disagreement between the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the I-League clubs has finally been resolved.
With the national team set to leave on Friday for a tour of the Caribbean, I-League teams including East Bengal, Pune FC and Mohun Bagan had raised doubts about its credibility and refused to release key players.
The reasons ranged from Dempo’s claim that the tour was not part of the official FIFA calendar to East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan’s belief that key midfielder Mehtab Hossain played too many games last season.
Whatever the reasons, the players have now been released and the tour will go ahead as planned.
It has, however, raised an issue that has troubled more successful soccer playing nations than India for some time: what should take priority, club or country?
Regardless of the nation, the protagonists always offer the same argument.
On one side are the players’ paymasters, the teams. They do not want to lend valuable assets — players — out to the national side for fear of injury, while the national team argues that without regular access to them they cannot improve as a squad.
A big problem for developing soccer nations is that their growth depends on a successful national side.
For Indian soccer it is even more relevant as they are trailing the country’s number one sport cricket.
AIFF has managed to avert the immediate crisis and will be meeting club and state association officials to prevent a repeat of the problem.