Within a week of declaring the club was bankrupt and unable to run its football operations, Mohammedan Sporting officials have done an U-turn. The 123-year-old club in Kolkata, apparently under pressure from rival members, has decided to continue playing in national tournaments. Players will start training from Saturday for the upcoming Durand Cup to be held in Goa for the first time. (Mohammedan Sporting Add Gloomy First to Glittering Past)
Last Saturday, in a dramatic move, Mohammedan Sporting shut down its club saying the club did not have funds to pay its staff or players. Sultan Ahmed, the club's president, said Mohammedan Sporting were pulling out of the Durand Cup and the I-League Division 2 because they neither had the infrastructure nor the technical qualification to play national-level tournaments.
Speaking to sports.ndtv.com on Friday evening, Ahmed, a Trinamool MP, said: "I never said we were shutting down. We had financial problems which we are trying to sort out. We still don't have sponsors but a couple of well-wishers have now come forward to help the team."
Mohammedan Sporting were the first Indian team to win Durand Cup when it was held in Delhi for the first time in 1940. They won the trophy again in 2013. "We will play in the Durand Cup and then if the funds and technicalities allow, we will send the team to I-League. We have to do this for our fans."
What caused this sudden change turnaround?
Sources reveal that members were divided over Ahmed's decision to shut down the club. The main opposition came from the state's Trinamool (fire brigade) minister Javed Khan. Ahmed and Khan don't see eye-to-eye. When Khan wanted to take over the club's activities, Ahmed and his brother Iqbal, who have run the historic club for years, pulled up their socks.
Ahmed denied that it was Khan's pressure that got him going again. "This is rubbish. If Khan had to come and help, he could have come directly to us. Now we have to resurrect the team and look at developing infrastructure," Ahmed said.
This season, Mohammedan Sporting received a Rs 1 Crore grant from the state government to develop infrastructure. Identical grants were given to Kolkata's other Big Two - East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Sporting's infrastructure remains in shambles. Questions have been raised about the club's financial accountability too.