Rajasthan United FC, reduced to 9 players, to take on Punjab in I-League opening day

Express News Service

KOCHI: Rajasthan United FC’s journey to the I-League felt like a fairytale story, but reality hit hard even before their historic first game of the campaign after being hit by issues involving player registration.  

In a bizarre situation, the Jaipur-based team, who made it to the tournament after winning the qualifying meet in October, could only start with nine players against Punjab FC due to the issue on Sunday.  

“RUFC qualified for the I-league on the basis of winning the qualifiers in October this year. An extended qualifiers season meant that the club couldn’t sign new players after qualifying for the I-league since registration had already closed for the players,” said the club in a statement.

The club said that it was down to ‘errant decision making’ from their part that brought forth this situation but suggested that their opponents and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) could have intervened. 

“We retained minimal players from the qualifiers and sought to get better players for the higher league — seeing as the competition is undoubtedly higher. With the transfer window for the professional players closed (in fact, before the qualifiers itself on August 31). This meant registering players would be tough, and all the transfers could only resume in the new year (From January 1),” the statement further read.

In fact, after this matter was widely discussed and circulated on social media, the AIFF came out with a statement.

“Earlier this year, a decision was taken that only professional players would be allowed to participate in the Hero I-League 2021-22. However, keeping in mind the clubs being promoted from the 2nd division, the League committee created an exception to allow the participation of amateur players till the 31st of December 2021 if they were already registered with such clubs in a professional registration period as per the AIFF RSTP,” the statement read.

It further said: “It is pertinent to note that FIFA has approved the AIFF RSTP. In this regard, the AIFF is bound to respect its own rules which are in consonance with the FIFA RSTP.”
RUFC expressed their desire for the match to be postponed but went on to play the match. With their next match on January 5, Rajasthan will have some time to get new players in.
Results: TRAU 0-0 Indian Arrows; Gokulam 1-0 Churchill.

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