With some of Indian football’s top clubs shutting down because they are unable to churn a profit, or as has been the case, unable to sustain themselves, having been operating by making a loss for the past years, and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) ceasing its tournaments, it looks like Indian footballers will have to look for careers away from their beloved sport.
A number of the country’s top football players are without contract and hence without income. I-League clubs are unwilling to sign on anyone right now since the competition begins in January 2016. Until such time as India’s premier football tournament is back, players not selected by Indian Super League (ISL) clubs remain in a quandary about their futures. At least last year and before the top clubs of Indian football could compete in the Federation Cup, which followed a league and knockout format involving the 16 best teams of the nation. Sadly, the AIFF has surcease with the competition (without citing any reasons whatsoever for the abrupt closure). Now, there are only two main pan-India tournaments in which these clubs can participate, however both of them accept teams on an invitation only basis and have been on a downward spiral for quite some time. To those interested, these competitions are the Durand Cup and the IFA shield.
Until the I-league resumes, the only hope for Indian footballers is the ISL beginning in October, however the competition which began last year draws viewers due to foreign talent and its marquee players. Only around 105 or so Indian players can be accommodated in the ISL amongst its 8 clubs, with 13 Indian players in every club, not exactly a solution for those who don’t make the cut.
A club of the stature of Pune FC is wondering whether it should continue in the I-league or close shop, and they haven’t signed anyone yet. Mumbai FC hasn’t begun training either. In Goa, Salgoacar had an open trial where 85 players from all over the country showed up, and after a week-long session, only 4 were selected, the highest paid among them getting 3 lakh rupees for a period of ten months. And these were the lucky ones!
Unemployment is a real danger for these Indian footballers and most have no option but to accept whatever is on offer for them. Climax Lawrence, one of the most well-known names in Indian football recently turned up in Goa to play for Tuff Laxmi Prasad SC, an unknown club in the domestic league there. This the plight of the man who was once the mainstay of the National team.
Those citing that Indian footballers in the ISL are raking in the big bucks should note that it is only a handful of top players who have gone for exorbitant sums. There are over 72 players who were undrafted and not selected by any club, those will have to hope someone picks them up, otherwise they will be in quite a pickle.
One senior official of the AIFF actually came out and stated that these players who have at least managed to find a club are the lucky ones. AIFF president Praful Patel says they are working on a solution, one where they plan to merge both the ISL and I-league into one package. However that happening is by no means a given. Until then, seeking alternate means of employment is the only option left to these players.
Image courtesy : http://www.freeflagicons.com/country/india/football_in_grass/