The I-League qualifiers 2021 will go ahead with just nine teams after Hyderya Sports Kashmir FC were disqualified for producing fake bank guarantee to the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The federation had received various letters and calls from Kashmir regarding the authenticity of the bank guarantee submitted by Hyderya Sports. AIFF then wrote to the bank in question, J&K Bank Dalgate branch, inquiring about the same. The bank responded to their enquiry on Monday stating that they had not issued any such bank guarantee.
On Saturday, AIFF had sent its enquiry to both the bank and Hyderya Sports Kashmir FC. While the club asked for a couple of days to sort out the situation, the bank responded on Monday after which the federation took the action.
“The matter would be referred to the disciplinary committee. At the moment, we have a signed document from the bank saying they have not issued any bank guarantee. I don’t know what documents Hyderya can get to contradict that. As of now, how can we not trust a letter written by the bank?” Sunando Dhar, CEO of the I-League told News18.com.
With the fixtures all set and the groups divided, the I-League qualifiers have been thrown in confusion by the scandal. Dhar said the Executive Committee is deciding over any change in format, if any, but he stated that no new team will be added.
“If there has to be a change in format, we need to get it approved from the Executive Committee. So, that process is going on. I don’t see any new team replacing them. The process for the Covid bubble has already started and more importantly, we didn’t have another team in pipeline to replace. So, there is no chance of a new team coming in at the moment,” he said.
Apart from the 10 teams that were finalised for the qualifiers, Delhi’s Garhwal FC and Maharashtra’s PIFA Sports FC had cleared the club licensing criteria. Dhar, however, said that they were always the back-up teams and would have had their chance had their state league winners not been cleared.
“The first point in the club licensing by the League Committee and the Executive Committee was one team per state. So, whether or not they fulfill the club licensing, they were always the back-up teams. Only if the top teams (winners of the state league) from their state would have failed the licensing, they would have come in,” he concluded.
The first match of the qualifiers on October 4 was scheduled to involve Hyderya Sports Kashmir FC and it remains to be seen how the fixtures are altered.