What has the I-League 2017 win done for Aizawl FC? It has given the little football team from one of the most shunned places in India, Mizoram, the power to go and challenge the authority. Much like the battle, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been engaging with the International Cricket Council (ICC) just days ahead of the start of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
While the battle between the cricket bodies might be all about justified revenue distribution and the 'Big 3' revenue model, the battle between Aizawl FC and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is all about hearts and for justice.
Imagine you finding gold after years of hard work in the coal mines...and then, all of a sudden, your employer arrives, congratulates you and snatches your gold, the hard work and your respect. That's what has propelled Aizawl FC to 'fast unto death', if not given the chance to compete in the premier football division in the upcoming season.
A state that eats, sleeps and breathes football, Mizoram is finally out of their cocoons at the moment. And the I-League trophy may be the testament. Unsure of the AIFF's future course of action -- Merger (between the I-League and the Indian Super League [ISL] or no merger -- Aizawl FC have shown immense strength in their fight for survival.
Remember James Cameron's Avatar? Humans vs Na'vi people
As is the word everywhere, only three I-League teams -- Bengaluru FC, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal -- will be a part of the new scheme of things (read, the merger) as proposed by the AIFF. Other clubs be damned!
On top of that, the clubs from the premier division post the merger, will be immune from relegation for as many as seven years. That means, the likes of Aizawl FC and Shillong Lajong, no matter how great a pool of Indian football talent they produce, they will forever be identified as teams who didn't quite make it to the top in Indian football.
Some may call Aizawl FC's 'fast unto death' statement -- which we need to mention has been covered by international news outlets like Guardian and Reuters -- as a mode of blackmailing the AIFF, truth remains that it's all about hearts that have made Aizawl FC what they are today -- right from their inception to success in the Mizoram Premier League and thereafter.
And the new plan from the Indian football governing body comes as a stab for the football side, who won the I-League with a shoestring budget of Rs 2.5 crore. Mohun Bagan's Sony Norde, alone, gets more than that!
Their plight can be compared to the battle between the Na'vi and the human race, before one Jake Sully, decides that enough is enough and revolts against the top order.
Amidst unprecedented success, it has been widely reported that AIFF is intending to include three I-League clubs—Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Bengaluru FC—while it is silent on the inclusion of the reigning champions Aizawl FC in the proposed top league.
It would be totally unfair and unacceptable to relegate the champions of the top league due to its merger with unrecognized 'inter-city' tournament.
We have the support of the entire country. We have sympathizers outside the country as well. We will protest everywhere, not just in Mizoram.
We will protest in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Shillong, Kolkata, Delhi, Myanmar, England, and if needed, even outside the FIFA headquarters where a good number of Mizos are based."
- Robert Royte, President, Aizawl FC (speaking to the TOI).
Costs to play Indian Super League
Participating fees to the organisers: Approx. 12 crore INR - 18 crore INR, every year.
The ball on AIFF's court now
According to reports, a high level meeting is expected at the AIFF HQs in New Delhi on Saturday May 6, which makes or breaks the hearts (nothing but hearts) of Aizawl FC and a plethora of Indian football fans.
If the tweet from Bollywood star John Abraham, the co-owner of ISL side NorthEast United FC, is anything to go with, there might be some hope still.
Time might indeed be ripe now, more than ever, for the Seven Sisters of North East, to stand in unison and fight against the top order for the respect and justice for Aizawl FC.