Now 16 years of the NFL/I-League are set to be completed, but still the league isn’t fully professional and one doesn’t know when it will finally become a full-fledged Pro League though the general organisation, scheduling and structure within the clubs has improved quite a bit over the years.
But one factor which is the key to overall success of the I-League – the spread across the country has not been achieved in all these years. The reasons are there to see – the strength of Kolkata and Goan football clubs, lack of professionalism in other parts of the country, lack of commercial viability of running a football club in India, lack of appropriate infrastructure. Surely the list could go on with further points on why such a situation persists.
At the end of the 2011/12 I-League south India will have no representation in the league with Bangalore’s HAL SC and Chirag United Kerala set for relegation. Be it Kerala, Bangalore or Chennai these cities have not been able to sustain their representation in the I-League with a football mad city like Hyderabad not even featuring in the league due to infighting in the state football association.
The counter example is the Northeast! It is good to see that Shillong Lajong FC on their second attempt have maintained their I-League status and they would be joined by United Sikkim FC as the second team from the Northeast in the I-League’s top tier, the first time this will happen in the league’s history. Surely a good sign, but rather an exception.
North India meanwhile went unrepresented this season for the first time in the league’s history, then at the end of last season Punjab’s own JCT was relegated and they disbanded the team. After 15 years in the top tier there was no team from North India though last season the AIFF’s Developmental Team Pailan Arrows was based in and around the capital Delhi.
I can’t confirm but India is one of few nations, maybe the only country in the world of football where the capital city has not had an own team in the top tier NFL/I-League in the history of the league.
All these above points sadly add-up to show that the I-League has a low way to go to become a truly Pan-Indian League…
Published with permission from Arunava about Football.