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After months of uncertainty, Sporting Clube de Goa have confirmed their withdrawal from I-League 2016/17 which is to start in less than 2 months from January 7. Five times National Champions, Dempo SC are also expected to follow suit and will announce their withdrawal in next few days.

The Goan club owned by Peter Vaz along with Salgaocar FC had pulled out of I-League on June 23 citing bias nature of AIFF-FSDL's Plan for League Restructuring which would have seen ISL becoming the top division with all I-League becoming the 2nd Division with no promotion to the top League.

Sporting Clube de Goa's Official Statement:

"Following strong objections to the Road Map for Indian Football as proposed by AIFF and their marketing partners on 17th May, 2016, Sporting Clube de Goa along with fellow goan Club Salgoacar F.C, after several rounds of deliberations, had taken the painful decision to withdraw from the forthcoming edition of the I League. 

After our decision to pull out was announced on 23rd June, 2016 AIFF swung into damage control mode and General Secretary Kushal Das, I League CEO Sunando Dhar along with Chirag Tanna representing IMG-Reliance had dashed down to Goa and met the representatives of Goan clubs which also included Dempo S.C.

At this meeting AIFF General Secretary assured to call a meeting of all I League clubs, consult the AIFF President and Executive Committee and also their marketing partners IMG Reliance and revert back with a final binding proposal on or before 31st July, 2016. 

After the above meeting, nothing was heard in matter from AIFF till an Executive Committee of AIFF decided, on 28th July, 2016, to form a Small Working Committee to speak to all stake holders and then decide on restructuring of Club Football in India. As to which stakeholders this committee spoke to we are not aware. 

Our Club and another I League club Mumbai F.C took the bold step to write to FIFA and AFC expressing their concerns with regards to the state and direction of football in India. This prompted AFC to form a Task Force to assist AIFF in preparation of a road map for India Football. 

FIFA President Giovanni Infantino and AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa along with Secretary Dato John Windsor descended on Goa at the end of September to attend the Extra Ordinary Congress of AFC, and made all the right noises. 

The Task Force consisting of high ranking officials of AFC, AIFF and IMG-Reliance also had its first meeting in Goa on 27th September, 2016. We are in the dark as to what transpired at this meeting, as sadly there was no representative of any I League club there, which fact itself tells its own story. 

In the meantime AIFF President Praful Patel kept on tomtoming that the Road Map for the future of Indian Football is only a work in progress and that I League is the main league of the country. All this time we at Sporting Clube clung to the hope that following the statements coming from the Presidents of FIFA, AFC and our own AIFF, and following our representation to FIFA and AFC, a fresh Road Map which did not envisage the forced demotion of the I League teams, would be announced well in time to allow us to field our team in the forthcoming I League. 

With that hope, we even participated in the Club Licencing process and secured our National Licence. But we now realize that all our hopes have been belied. 

At the book launch function of Saji Prabhakaran’s book “Back to the Roots” recently in Delhi AIFF President Praful Patel made the following statement “We (the AIFF) have set the cat among the pigeons”. 

One knows very well what happens when the cat is set amongst the pigeons. This statement is a pointer to the thought process of AIFF as to the future course of India Football and leaves us with no other option but confirm our withdrawal from the I League. 

However please note importantly, that this is only a tactical decision to stay out of the I League, till AIFF gets it Road Map right and Sporting Clube will continue with all other football activities like Grassroots and Youth Football development and also maintain a strong first team to compete in Goa as well as in All India Football Tournaments."

With the withdrawal of all the Goan clubs, I-League has now been reduced to a 7-team affair. But this may prove to be a golden oppurtunity for Minerva AFC, FC Bardez Goa and Chennai City FC, who have applied for direct entry to I-League. If AIFF approves their bids, I-League can still become a 10-team League.

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