Newly-crowned I-League champions Aizawl FC have threatened to go on a "fast unto death" if they are not allowed to play in the top-tier of domestic club structure next season.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is mulling restructuring of domestic football into three tiers from next season. According to the plan, the top-tier will be played among the existing eight teams of the Indian Super League and two-three clubs from the I-League.
The second tier is likely to be made up of the current I-League clubs sans those which make it to the top-tier. Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Bengaluru FC are tipped top be among clubs which may get to play in the top league along with the existing eight ISL teams.
There will be no promotion to the top league from the lower tiers at least for another seven years.
Fearing that they will be consigned to the second tier for many years even after winning the I-League, Aizwal FC has written to the AIFF to allow them to remain in the top league in any scenario.
"Aizwal FC has submitted its formal claim to AIFF to continue in the top league even after the proposed merger of the existing top league with the ISL," the Mizoram club wrote on its official Twitter handle.
"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 all these steps are failed, the club will have no other choice but to resort to world-wide protests, sitting demonstration near AFC/Fifa offices, picketing of AIFF office, mass hunger strike/fast unto death protest," the club said.
Aizawl FC, a hitherto little-known club from a remote corner of the country with a shoe-string budget, were crowned I-League champions on April 30 in one of the most remarkable achievements in Indian football history.
It was, in fact, the 'Leicester' moment of Indian football as the Aizawl side turned their fortunes around in just a matter of a year after they were on the verge of relegation from the I-League last season.
Aizawl were to be relegated from the I-League after they finished eighth last year but after a few Goan sides pulled out of the country's top-flight league, they got a lifeline to stay afloat.
A club whose budget is just around Rs 2 crore (Mohun Bagan spent the same amount in buying Sony Norde), it's an achievement of enormous proportion.
Aizawl FC has submitted its formal claim to AIFF to continue in the top league... pic.twitter.com/Z43cHEV0OA— Aizawl Football Club (@AizawlFC) May 2, 2017