The Bengal chit-fund scam, which hit Kolkata's I-League clubs hard finacially, has now robbed the Indian football team of a chance of improving its FIFA rankings by playing friendlies against Pakistan and Bangladesh in London. The organisers of the trip backed off citing "unforeseen reasons".
The Kolkata-based Celebrity Management Group (CMG), promoters of the London tour, have informed the All India Football Federation (AIFF) that the event has been postponed owing to unforeseen reasons.
But sources in the AIFF told IANS that the cash crunch owing to the chit fund scam in West Bengal forced the organisers to put off the tournament.
Rose Valley, a prominent chit-fund company under the government scanner, was one of the sponsors of the trip, but it has backed out after the Saradha scam came to light in West Bengal. Rose Valley is also an associate sponsor of East Bengal.
"CMG, in a letter, has informed us that it was forced to postpone the tournament owing to unforeseen reasons. The tour was also being sponsored by Rose Valley and since the chit fund companies are under government scanner, we think CMG could not raise money for the tournament," a senior AIFF official told IANS, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
India were scheduled to first face Bangladesh on June 1, and Pakistan on June 4. Pakistan and Bangladesh were also set to clash on June 8.
The matches were to be played at Craven Cottage, the home ground of English Premier League (EPL) club Fulham FC and the area is thickly populated by the Asians. A full house was expected for all matches.
With AFC Challenge Cup hopes over, the friendlies were a part of AIFF's bid to improve India's FIFA rankings. India are 149th in the world rankings, Bangladesh are 154th and Pakistan 168th.
The AIFF initially had plans to play 147th-ranked Luxembourg, but the latter had already commited to playing Azerbaijan in Baku on June 7.