A day later, clubs refuse to toe AIFF’s line

The availability of top players like Sunil Chhetri and Subrata Paul for India's Caribbean tour looks in doubt, as three top clubs — Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Pune FC — on Tuesday refused to release their players despite an All India Football Federation (AIFF) directive to that effect.

The AIFF had invoked its constitution and said that clubs had an obligation to release players for national duty. In response, Chirag Tanna, Pune FC's Head of Operations, quoted FIFA's 'Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players', which states that it is compulsory for clubs to release players for matches occurring on dates listed in the coordinated international match calendar, and not for those scheduled outside the calendar. On the calendar, August 10 is marked as Friendly matchday, while the dates September 2-6 are labelled International match days. All of India's fixtures occur in between.

Pune FC said that their two India players, goalkeeper Paul and striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, required rest before heading into pre-season training. "Jeje was one of only two players to play in the starting eleven for the under-23 team in the Olympic qualifiers and the senior team in the World Cup qualifiers," said Tanna. "We want him to get some rest. It's unreasonable to expect him to keep playing every match. By the time he comes back to the club, he's going to be exhausted. Subrata was carrying a small ankle strain before the World Cup qualifier, so he needs rest too."

East Bengal said they were willing to release Baljit Singh Sahni, Raju Gaikwad and Robert Lalthlamuana, but not Harmanjot Singh Khabra and senior midfielder Mehtab Hossain. "Khabra has a slight injury, and Mehtab Hossain needs time to rest," said the club's football secretary Santosh Bhattacharya. "Our training has already begun, but Mehtab has been allowed a period of leave because our coach says he's very tired."

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