AIFF must make internationals lucrative for stars

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It is crises time for Indian football. Twelve I-League clubs have formed their own association and are bargaining for a share of the TV and marketing revenue from the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The national team slumped to three successive defeats in the recent AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu, conceding eight goals and not scoring once.

Chief coach Savio Madeira blames the Kathmandu debacle on lack of motivation amongst the players. He claims that the players were distracted in finalising contracts with clubs for the next season. Hence the spirit, so evident in the victorious 2011 SAFF Championship in Delhi, was missing. Considering that the transfer season is a couple of months away, this alleged attitude of the players is quite unprofessional. There are also reports that injured players went to the Dubai camp and after MRI scans were sent back.

AIFF sources are also unhappy with Madeira’s handling of the situation, his inability to motivate the players and stubbornness in team selection. Persistence with out-of-form right back, the ageing Sameer Naik and striker Sushil Kumar Singh are cited as selection blunders.  His contract as national coach may be terminated soon. It is believed that Technical Director Rob Bann has been asked to look out for a suitable foreign coach. So about a year after Bob Houghton was sacked the honeymoon with Indian coaches is over. Armando Colaco left in September 2011 and Madeira is on his way out.

As Indian football lacks a professional structure, negotiating club deals is always full of subterfuge and intrigue. The club vs country dispute has existed in Indian football in the past also. It led to a major crisis prior to the 1982 Asian Games. On 19 February 1981, just before the transfer season 21 players, 19 from Bengal and one each from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh walked out of the national camp in defiance of their parent body.  Their loyalty lay with the lucrative club offers rather than the national team.

Though labeled as “rebels” and “deserters” and condemned by former Prime Minister Mrs. Gandhi and Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu the players remained defiant. However the situation was handled deftly by then national coach P.K. Banerjee and assistants Arun Ghosh and GMH Basha. P.K. Banerjee contacted the pragmatic Field Marshal Maneckshaw, president of the defunct All India Council of Sports to negotiate a compromise. Maneckshaw compelled the AIFF to compensate all players on national duty with Rs. 2,000 per month. Harmony was restored. Bhaskar Ganguly, Manoranjan Bhattacharya, Shabbir Ali, Prasun Banerjee and others returned to the national camp.

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