Kushal Das, General Secretary of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), is certain that East Bengal will definitely join the Indian Super League (ISL), be it this season or from the 2021-22 campaign. But he believes that the Red and Golds must join the top tier when they are absolutely ready to do so and not hasten the process.
"I am absolutely certain that East Bengal will play ISL - be it this year or next year. If they come in ISL they must come in with a long-term vision and with a proper structure. It took six months for Mohun Bagan and ATK to finalise the deal. It is better to wait for a year. Because the heavens are not going to fall if they play in ISL from next year. They still have an issue with their old partner (Quess Corp). If they manage to resolve it then they are welcome from this season," stated Das during a webinar organised by West Bengal Chamber of Commerce on Indian football.
When queried if there is a certain deadline for East Bengal to adhere to he replied, "Club licensing starts on July 15. If a new entity comes in then they have to get a lot of NOCs (No Objection Certificates). And this they should get from AFC (Asian Football Confederation). AIFF has nothing to do with it."
Das congratulated ATK and Mohun Bagan FC for forging a new entity in ATK Mohun Bagan FC and also mentioned that retaining the green and maroon colours is a sensible decision.
"The induction of Mohun Bagan in ISL is a win-win situation for everyone. The financial firepower of ATK and the legacy and fanbase of Mohun Bagan is a great thing. They have retained the jersey colour. It is a very sensible decision. It is a sad part that they will have to play behind closed doors in this season."
With the uncertainty over the Covid-19 crisis not showing any signs of abating, the ISL and I-League will be held at a centralised venue in the upcoming season. Goa and Kerala have been mooted as potential hosts for ISL, with the former in prime position to hold the competition.
Meanwhile, the I-League matches should be held in Kolkata, as revealed by Goal earlier.
"As things look, it (ISL & I-League) has to be behind closed doors and in a single venue. We cannot afford to take risks with the players' health. We are still figuring out the details. But that is the only possibility.
"The final decision is yet to be taken. Goa and Kolkata are the likely destinations. The I-League has to go to Kolkata since YBK will be locked for three months for preparations of WWC and hence ISL cannot take place there."
Das also informed that AIFF hopes to organise the I-League second division in mid-September in a single venue with no spectators in the stadium.