The I-League’s woes intensified further on Saturday after Shillong-based Royal Wahingdoh, who had an impressive first season in the top flight earlier this year, decided to pull out from the championship. Wahingdoh have cited lack of clear roadmap as the reason to not play in the I-League anymore, even though they will continue to take part in other domestic competitions.
Wahingdoh is the third team to pull out of next season’s I-League, with Pune FC and Bharat FC already parting ways. Like Wahingdoh, Bharat FC too made their debut in the premier domestic competition last season and while they have completely shut shop, Pune have disbanded only their senior side.
Coached by Santosh Kashyap, assistant manager of North East United in the ISL, Wahingdoh had taken the I-League by storm last season by playing some attacking, free-flowing football. Comprising local players, with the majority from Manipur, they challenged the big guns of Indian football for the title, staying in contention till the very end. They eventually finished third, behind Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC.
The team acted as a launchpad for some exciting talents, including Jackichand Singh and Seityasen Singh, both of whom went on to make national team debuts following a string of consistent performances in the league. The fate of the players was not immediately known, although it is believed that most big clubs are already pursuing them.
The club had recently failed to comply with AFC licensing criteria as their home stadium does not adhere to the credentials. However, Wahingdoh, along with Mumbai FC and Shillong Lajong FC, were granted licences to compete in upcoming season” “The club did not see where the national league was heading. They have said there is no clear roadmap and keeping that in mind, the financial commitment they were making did not seem justifiable. They, however, will continue to take part in other competition”,” an AIFF official said.