Indian football legend Chuni Goswami has vehemently criticised the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) plan on creating a new Indian football calendar, and said the football body are planning to destroy Bengal football. Mohun Bagan veteran Goswami, 78, has also urged the West Bengal government and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to launch a fight against the AIFF's plan.
During a closed-door meeting on Tuesday between the AIFF, their commercial partners IMG-R and representatives from Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League clubs, it was decided that the ISL would become the main domestic club football tournament of the country, while the I-League would become the second tier. The second-division I-League would, meanwhile, become the third-tier football club competition.
Thursday saw the Trinamool Congress (TMC) winning the West Bengal Assembly elections by 211 votes, putting Mamata Banerjee on the path to retake her oath as chief minister.
"By the time you read this, West Bengal will know the name of its new chief minister for the next five years. Whoever comes to power, I request the person to fight against the game plan laid down by Praful Patel and IMG-Reliance to choke and kill Bengal football," Goswami wrote in renowned Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika.
"From what I was reading in the newspapers before the meeting, it looked like a plan to merge the ISL with the I-League. However, what came out was a plan promoted by a group driven by self-interests to give ISL official status since it is not a FIFA-approved tournament.
"And what about our East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting? If they have to play in that league, they will have to pay two-three-fold more, otherwise they will be relegated to the League One, which is basically the second-division league of the country," he wrote.
The Best Striker of Asia award winner of 1962 also said it was embarrassing that the heavyweight football clubs, who have taken Indian football to great heights over the decades, are being relegated to the second division.
"I don't think I have seen something more shameful in all these years. It's like you need to renovate Brazil football, so you send Sao Paolo and Santos to the second division. And with a few new franchise teams, you start the search for new Peles and Neymars," Goswami added.
The Padma Shri and the Arjuna Award winner also said AIFF President Praful Patel was completely unaware of the heritage of Bengal football, and Indian football, as a whole, had become a complete joke.
"This plan can only be proposed by people who don't know football. Praful Patel has probably not seen even 10 football matches in his life. And now he has become the man who is trying to keep aside the Kolkata clubs and make the IMG-Reliance project the main league of the country. Does he know about the legacy of the Kolkata giants?" Goswami wrote.
"Do you know Mr. Patel that East Bengal and Mohun Bagan had to play an exhibition match, that too at your Cooperage, to raise the ship fare of the Indian hockey team that brought the first Olympic Gold to the country in 1928? And now it is being said that the century-old clubs will have to learn about improvement from the franchise teams? What a joke Indian football has become!"