I-League 2017-18: New club from Kerala, Gokulam FC, inducted into India's top division league
What's the story?
Kerala based professional football club Gokulam FC have won the bid to participate in the forthcoming edition of India's top division league, the I-League. The AIFF, which held a meeting on 18th September in New Delhi to evaluate the bids, has now decided to approve the bid made by the Malabar-based team.
In case you didn't know..
Gokulam FC is a professional football club based in Malappuram, Kerala. Owned by the Sree Gokulam Group, a business establishment, they have been waiting for their I-League debut for a long time. Before Gokulam FC, Kerala Police, FC Kochin, SBT and Viva Kerala represented the state in India's top-flight league. It was Viva Kerala who were the last representative from Kerala in the I-League, during the 2011-12 season.
The heart of the matter
The club made a bid into the league earlier but were refuted by the governing body. However, their bid this time was accepted by the AIFF. While Bengaluru-based Ozone FC and another team, believed to be from Rajasthan, also made their bid, it's understood that their bids were rejected.
Gokulam FC also participated in the recently-concluded AWES Cup in Goa and finished as the runners-up as they went down on penalties against Dempo SC.
"It gives me great pleasure to welcome a new Kerala team from Sree Gokulam Group to the Hero I-League from the 2017-18 season," told AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das.
Hero I-League CEO Sunandho Dhar also expressed his delight at Gokulam FC's inclusion, saying: "We would like to congratulate Sree Gokulam Group on winning the bid. It has been our endeavor to have corporate teams come into the Hero I-League and the team from Kerala will open a new market for the league."
It is also understood that the Payyanad Stadium, which hosted the Federation Cup will be the home ground of the new I-League entrants. The inclusion of Gokulam FC into the top division league will surely empower the status of I-League. The advantage that the home ground is in Malappuram district will also boost the support for the club.
The induction of Gokulam FC will help many underrated Kerala talents to feature themselves before the larger Indian football community.
Since their bid has now been approved, Gokulam FC have invited suggestions for a new name to the club. A name which could remind the culture of Malabar will be given priority. While the winning suggestions will be awarded splendid prizes, it is also a pointer to the fact that Gokulam FC are all set to make their debut a remarkable one.
The inclusion of a new team from Kerala will help many talents showcase their expertise before the world. Since they are from the football-crazy Malabar region, the club's supporter base is immense, which could, in turn, help the I-League improve its reputation.