Kolkata: Did astrology play a role in national football team's recent success at the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers?
Well, it seems the All India Football Federation (AIFF) did make an effort to have the stars aligned.
It has come to light that AIFF splurged Rs 16 lakh on an astrology agency which it had hired to "motivate" the national team side, which confirmed its berth in the 24-team AFC Asian Cup Final.
The Sunil Chhteri-led side topped the Group to qualify.
"A motivator was appointed for the National team ahead of the Asian Cup. Later on, it came to light that the company which was engaged, was an astrological firm," a team insider told PTI.
"Plainly-speaking, an astrologer was appointed to motivate the team. Huge payment to the tune of Rs 16 lakh was made," the source claimed.
The astrological firm apparently took three sessions with the Blue Tigers but a Kolkata-based player said: "At least I've not heard of this as I joined the team late."
Sunando Dhar, who is the acting AIFF general secretary, was not available for comments.
Former India goalkeeper Tanumoy Bose ridiculed the idea and hit out at the AIFF for becoming a laughing stock.
"At a time when the AIFF repeatedly failed to conduct proper youth leagues, and many prestigious tournaments were forced to shut down, incidents like this will further tarnish the image of Indian football," Bose told PTI.
He further said it was just a "smoke screen" since the AIFF officials are quite capable of using the money to sponsor their upcoming foreign trips.
"The CoA (which is running the show in AIFF after the suspension of president Praful Patel) must go deep into this appalling incident and find out who all are responsible behind it. There are many scams waiting to see the light of the day," he added.
The Supreme Court had last month appointed a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) to manage the affairs of AIFF, ending Praful Patel's long rein at the helm.
Black magic is not new to Indian football. One Delhi-based club once had roped in a Meerut-based 'Baba' for a key league match and after their triumph, the team credited its success to him.
The Sunil Chhetri-led side recorded its best-ever Asian Cup campaign as the talismanic forward led from the front with four goals from three matches to take the national team to the Finals.
India began their campaign with a 2-0 win over Cambodia and then they secured last-gasp 2-1 victory over Afghanistan before beating Hong Kong 4-0 to qualify as group toppers.