Kolkata, March 10: Former FIFA regional development officer for South and Central Asia, Shaji Prabhakaran, has backed all I-League clubs to be part of the revamped Indian Super League (ISL) which the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and its commercial and marketing partner Football Sports Development Ltd (FSDL) have proposed.
Surprise league leaders Aizawl FC have fuelled talk of what will happen if the Mizoram outfit goes on to win the league as the planned new league will be a 10-team affair sheltering all eight ISL teams and two I-League clubs with either East Bengal or Mohun Bagan merging with city ISL team Atletico de Kolkata (ATK).
The other team reported to be favoured are JSW-backed Bengaluru FC.
"They cannot be left out of the top division. If they even finish close to first place in the league, can you leave them out just because they are from Mizoram?
"There cannot be an elitist approach to the country's top tier," Prabhakaran, who vacated his FIFA office in January, told IANS on Friday.
Prabhakaran had criticised the ISL on Social media on Thursday, asserting that the franchisee system will not help the growth of the game in India.
He had also pointed out that the money made from football needs to comeback to the game which is not happening at the moment.
"Countries which r successful in football -- there r no franchisee concept. This model can't succeed in India because it is a direct conflict," Prabhakaran had posted on Twitter.
"My problem is 80 percent money is not going back to football. Every penny they (FSDL) invest must go in the right direction. Otherwise, it's a considerable loss. Heritage clubs cannot be left in the lurch.
"A league has to be a 365-day affair. That's how you build fan base. If you use all the money for three-four months, and then there is nothing for the next nine months, you are not creating assets," he added.
According to Prabharakan, all teams in I-League meet Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) club licensing criteria and therefore there is no reason they should get differential treatment.
"As per licensing, all teams in league fullfill the criteria, and they play in the AFC Cup also. Even if anybody goes to court, the verdict will be in favour of clubs because it's injustice."
Prabhakaran, who wrote a book recently on grassroots development, signed off by putting his weight behind new India U-17 World Cup coach Luis Norton de Matos who has taken over from sacked Nicolai Adam.
"We need to support him and hope the team does well under him."