I-League 2017-18: New clubs from Gujarat, Rajasthan and other states in bidding war
What's the story?
After the All India Football Federation (AIFF) had invited bids for new teams in the 2017-18 I-League season, four new sides have come forward with their bids in front of the governing body. With the Indian Super League managing to lure Bengaluru FC to the elite competition, the AIFF was desperate to add more teams in the roster to make next season's I-League a grand success.
According to Goal India, teams from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bengaluru and Kerala have made their bids and are hoping for an approval to participate. Ozone FC from Bengaluru and Gokulam FC from Kerala - both sides currently playing in the second division - have applied for a direct entry into the I-League along with new teams from the western states of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
In case you didn't know...
I-League and ISL are set to run concurrently this season with the AIFF failing to undertake a merger of the leagues in time. Opposition from teams like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal caused the I-League to continue along with the ISL. But the federation is confident of a merger with 2019 being the year suggested when India will have its new, unified major football league.
The heart of the matter
For the selection of new teams, AIFF had invited bids from various cities of the country which included Bengaluru, Mumbai, New Delhi, Ranchi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bhopal, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Malappuram and Trivandrum. Because of the growing football culture in Bengaluru owing to the rapid rise of BFC, the I-League wanted a team from the city at any cost which prompted Ozone FC to submit their bid.
Gokulam FC, who are a club based in Malappuram city of Kerala, have been trying since long for an entry into the I-League and might soon see themselves rub shoulders with some of the biggest and the oldest clubs in the country. I-League has never had a team from Rajasthan or Gujarat in the last 10 years. Finally, it seems an I-League team from west India is finally set to become a reality.
The AIFF will reevaluate all the bids on the 18th of August before making a decision to award spots in the league for the newcomers. Meanwhile, if a bid from Gokulam FC gets the nod to go ahead then they will become the first Keralite club in the I-League since the relegation of Chirag United Kerala in 2012.
I-League needed a major overhaul to keep up with the riches of the ISL and bringing in new teams from untouched corners of the country is a step taken in the right direction. Having teams from the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat will give the league a boost and hopefully unearth many jewels hidden in the parts of the state.