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  Sports   Football  07 Jan 2017  I-League 10 has bigger pan India presence

I-League 10 has bigger pan India presence

Published : Jan 7, 2017, 12:47 am IST
Updated : Jan 7, 2017, 6:33 am IST

Chennai City FC is the new name for Nethaji Sports Club, which was founded in 1946.

(Representational image)
 (Representational image)

A unique feature of the 10th Hero I-League that kicks-off on Saturday is that it has a much bigger pan India presence than previous editions. There are 10 teams from nine cities. As the Salt Lake Stadium, being renovated for the 2017 U-17 World Cup, is unavailable, Mohun Bagan will play their home matches in the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium and East Bengal in Barasat. Hence, 10 teams will play in 10 different venues, also a new feature.

In previous editions both the Kolkata giants played their home matches at the Salt Lake Stadium. There would invariably be three or four teams from Goa that usually played most of their home matches at either Nehru Stadium in Fatorda or the Tilak Maidaan in Vasco. In fact in the 9th National Football League in 2004-05 there were six teams from Goa and three from Kolkata in a 12-team league. This time the only entrant from Goa is Churchill Brothers.

In the 10th I-League, all the regions are represented. From the North-East the participating teams are Shillong Lajong and Aizawl FC, from Kolkata the old firm East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, from the south Bengaluru FC and newcomers Chennai City FC, from the Western region, Mumbai FC, DSK Shivajians (Pune) and Churchill Brothers and for the first time since the closure of JCT in 2011, a team from North India, debutants Minerva Punjab FC.

Another unique feature of this edition is that except for the established clubs Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Churchill Brothers, all the other seven entrants were either set up or flourished in the new millennium. Bengaluru FC started in 2013. The Minerva Academy was founded in 1955 as an institute that prepared aspirants for the armed forces, but the football club Minerva Punjab FC begun only in 2014. Similarly, Mumbai FC first played in 2008. DSK Shivajians became active in 2014 and first played in the I-League last season.

Chennai City FC is the new name for Nethaji Sports Club, which was founded in 1946. As Nethaji SC they played in the Chennai league. But new owner Rohit Ramesh took over in 2013 and to give a regional flavour renamed the club Chennai City FC. So Chennai City FC have only played for two seasons.

The two North-East clubs have also taken off in the 21st century. Aizawl FC was established in 1984 but started getting sponsors and professional a few seasons ago.

Similarly Shillong Lajong first played in the 2009 I-League. Even Churchill Brothers, formed in the 1990s, became famous only after their NFL and I-League exploits. So there has been a massive churning in Indian football and only East Bengal and Mohun Bagan represent the old order of clubs.

Five new coaches will be on view, the former Barcelona assistant coach Albert Roca (Bengaluru FC), Englishman Dave Rogers (DSK Shivajians), Albert Fernandez (Churchill Brothers), Irishman Colm Toal and Surender Singh (technical director and coach of Minerva FC) and A. Robin Charles Raja (Chennai City FC).

However except for Bengaluru FC, Mohun Bagan, DSK Shivajians and Shillong Lajong, the other six clubs have not filled their quota of four foreign players, so uncertainty could prevail in the opening round of matches.

Tags: i-league, bengaluru fc, chennai city fc, albert roca