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ISL earns AFC recognition

Officials from IMG-Reliance met AFC officials to discuss possible scenarios.

Could we see the likes of Atletico de Kolkata in Asia?

What’s the story?

In a surprising development, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) are looking to allow the winners of the Indian Super League (ISL) to participate in the qualifying play-off of the AFC Cup, according to Goal.com.

The ISL, which was not affiliated to any body and was considered to be a private tournament, will now become a recognized league under the AFC, All India Football Federation as well as FIFA.

It has also been revealed that the General Secretary of the AGC, Dato Windsor, will be coming to India later in May to make a formal announcement.

In case you didn’t know

The calendar year of Indian football for the last three years has been divided into two separate leagues – the I-League and the ISL. The ISL had no affiliation with any governing body and no representation in continental competition.

The ISL has seen three seasons take place so far, featuring eight teams based on franchise ownership models.

But with recent developments regarding a possible merger, there have been talks of a change in the structure. Earlier, it was the winners of the Federation Cup that would earn a spot in the AFC Cup playoff.

The heart of the matter

The marketing partners of the AIFF, IMG-Reliance are said to have met Windsor and Alex Philips, Head of AFC-UEFA Affairs at UEFA in Bahrain, in order to discuss proposals.

The first option, which asked for three slots for India in the AFC competitions was rejected. The demand was the I-League winners and ISL winners would enter the AFC Cup, while the winner of the Super Cup, the combined cup tournament, would enter the playoffs of the Asian Champions League, the elite club competition of the continent. 

The second idea was a playoff between the two winners of the I-League and the ISL, which would see the winner enter the Champions League playoffs and the other going into the AFC Cup.

What next?

The implications of the recognition to the ISL are huge and will be seen in the coming days as more information is received and details are finalized. 

Author’s take

The announcement looks to be a huge victory for IMG-Reliance, who have often been accused by fans of ‘corporatizing’ football and not taking into the account the interest of smaller clubs. Things look bleak for the existing I-League clubs, including recent champions Aizawl FC, who might have to suffice with a spot in the second division.

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