July 3 - the day when the fate of 11 clubs who participate in India's traditional top-tier, I-league, is set to be decided by the apex football governing body in India, the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
But in reality, the fate of the I-league clubs was already decided- way back in 2010 - when the AIFF signed up the Master Rights Agreement (MRA) with the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) for a 700-crore rupees deal for the next 15 years.
The AIFF granted FSDL the “full and unfettered right and ability to establish the ISL and to decide the format, rules and structure of the ISL and the teams and players which will compete in it", in the MRA. The contract also gave the power to the Reliance-backed company to "reconstitute, replace and/or discontinue (temporarily or permanently)" the I-league.
And so all the fight, the vehement protests and the pleadings were always going to go in vain. And it's now just a matter of time before the clubs realize that they are powerless. In no way can the treatment which is being meted out to these clubs can be considered fair.
But one can surely wonder when were things fair for these clubs- they were never valued; it was an unrequited love. But inspite of everything, inspite of loving and not being loved back, a lover will keep doing everything for his love- something now I-league clubs should do.
They were a part of Indian football, when there was no one to support it, when it was repelled by the corporate markets for its lacklustreness. They never wished for anything, they just kept giving.
They might be left out of the elite bandwagon for not being 'rich' enough to afford it, but if they give up and shut down, Indian football will be destroyed.
For the bigger cause- for the sake of Indian football, these clubs must keep existing, they existed for the nation's interest- and they must keep existing for the nation's interest. Only if Indian football blooms, they can bloom with it.
There is always light at the end of the tunnel- only if one dares to keep walking through the dark. One day, for sure these clubs will get what they deserve. But until then, they must keep surviving. It may be a matter of choice, but it is upto these clubs to choose the right path and earn the respect of the Indian football fans.