The reigning Indian league champions, Aizawl FC, have threatened to go on hunger strike if they are denied an opportunity to defend their I-League title next season.
A club statement even threatened to “fast unto death” if they are not reinstated.
Last year, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) opted to introduce a new three-tier system for the 2017/18 season, with Aizawl not part of the plans for the top division, which will be known as the Indian Super League (ISL).
The statement from Aizawl read:
“If no positive response is received from AIFF, the club will approach central sports minister, prime minister of India and also president of AFC.”
“If these steps are failed, the club will have no other choice but will resort to worldwide protests, sitting demonstration near AFC/FIFA offices, picketing of AIFF office, mass hunger strike/fast unto death protest.”
On Monday, Aizawl’s owner, Robert Royte, admitted he expected the AIFF to include Aizawl in the ISL.
“How can the reigning champions be relegated to second division? We will not accept it, no chance. We will be playing in the Asian competitions.”
“How silly will it be if India’s champions are playing in Asia but, back home, they are not allowed to play in the main league?” Royte said.
A senior AIFF official quoted by the Indian Express said the matter would be discussed at a meeting on Saturday.
“Aizawl’s win has put the federation in a tight spot. Things should be clearer after Saturday’s meeting. Until then, it’s tough to speculate what will happen,” he said.