AIFF 'unfair': 8 I-League clubs ditch Super Cup

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MUMBAI: Eight I-League clubs have withdrawn from the upcoming Super Cup set to take place in Bhubaneswar this month.

While seven teams - Mohun Bagan, Chennai City FC, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers, Aizawl FC, Gokulam Kerala and NEROCA - remained tight-lipped, Minerva Punjab FC cited the "unfair treatment" meted out by the AIFF to all the teams in the league as the reason for their collective decision.

AIFF general secretary Kushal Das confirmed to ESPN that he had received the withdrawal letter from the eight clubs, but did not clarify the board's future course of action.

Minerva accused the AIFF of neglecting the I-League clubs in "all aspects", including the board's failure to provide financial assistance to teams participating in the Super Cup despite having a title sponsor in Hero MotoCorp. With no AFC tournaments also on offer by participating in the Super Cup, Minerva felt the competition lacked "any incentive" for the teams, ESPN reports.

Minerva also pointed out that they were yet to get a reply from the AIFF regarding the letter eight I-League clubs had written to the board last month over concerns about their future.

"They (the eight clubs) have pulled out as their letter to AIFF president Praful Patel did not bear any fruit. They are yet to get any reply," a source close to the development told IANS.

The eight (of 11) I-League clubs had written to Patel requesting a meeting to "seek answers" regarding the league's future.

The letter - bearing the names of top office-bearers of Aizawl FC, Chennai City, Churchill Brothers, Gokulam Kerala, Minerva Punjab, Mohun Bagan, Neroca and East Bengal - said the teams also wanted to discuss the potential relegation to the second division in Indian football, with the ISL "all set to be branded the top league of the country".

They alleged "interference" of AIFF's commercial partners Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) in the decision-making in Indian football.

The three clubs which did not join were debutants Real Kashmir, Shillong Lajong, owned by AIFF vice president Larsing Ming Sawyan, and Indian Arrows, the AIFF's developmental team.

The Super Cup is India's main knockout club tournament hosted by the AIFF, pitting I-League and ISL teams against each other.

The qualification round of the Super Cup is set to be held on March 15 and 16 in Bhubaneswar. Minerva were scheduled to face FC Pune City in the first qualifying round game on Friday, March 15.

The main round is scheduled to start on March 29.