Aizawl FC wrote one of the most incredible footballing stories in recent times when they won the I-league title. Having been relegated the year before, few were expecting Aizawl to finish even in the top half of the table. But Aizawl managed to defy all expectations and went to win the coveted trophy as the little state in the North East celebrated like never before. But their fairy tale may have taken a turn for the worse as Aizawl FC may not get to defend their title next season.
While it sounds incredible that the defending champions may not be able to defend their crown, the decision makers in football may decide otherwise. The issue is that the AIFF and IMG-Reliance want to merge the ISL and the I-League to have one single entity.
Due to this merger, the ISL wishes to have only three I-League clubs with the most exciting ones being Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Bengaluru FC. These clubs already have an established name in the country and have an existing fan base.
But the unlikely triumph of Aizawl FC has created an issue. If the original three teams are the ones to play in the ISL, then Aizawl will likely not play any top-level football for the foreseeable future.
With Aizawl representing India in the AFC Champions League next year, it is tough to envisage a scenario in which the Indian champions will be playing low league football while representing the nation against the best of Asia.
ISL will become a money juggernaut in a few years, but it should not do this at the cost of ruining the romance in football. Aizawl represents the most beautiful story in Indian football and their journey should not have such an unfortunate end. Let us hope that the possibility that Aizawl FC may not get to defend their title next season is stopped by the decision makers.