I-League 2017/18 : What does the season have in store?
The I-League will see as many as six North East derbies this season.
I-League 2017/18 is around the corner as it will run parallel to the Indian Super League 2017/18 for the upcoming season. The league is set to kick-off on 25th of November. With an array of changes in the venues and teams, we bring you to what the season has in store for us.
1) More Youngsters
With several top-notch Indian players switching sides to Indian Super League from the I-League sides, the I-League has been reduced to a platform to showcase skills for offers from the cash-rich franchises.
The Indian Super League Franchises have snapped up several experienced Indians in the draft. This has left the Kolkata sides, the most affected of the lot because over the past seasons, they have heavily relied on their financial power to snap up the big names.
With the current situation, Kolkata clubs have been forced to resort to get in youngsters from other teams, scout players and also promote youngsters up to the first team from their academy side.
East Bengal have brought in several players who were part of the I-League-winning Aizawl FC side. They have promoted six players up to the senior team squad from their academy side. The most talked about is Mehtab Singh, who has put an impressing performance in the Calcutta Football League. They have also scouted up Mirshad and Jobi Justin from Kerala.
Mohun Bagan on the other hand, have brought in talents like Chelsterpaul Lyngdoh.
Aizawl FC have also brought in several new faces to their roster and they have been making the right noises in the ongoing Mizoram Premier League. Lalthathanga Khawlhring, from NorthEast United is one such name. Rochharzela is another new face in the defending champions' squad. He has also taken up the Mizoram Premier League by storm with 6 goals and 5 assists.
With Indian Arrows all set to make an appearance in the I-League, teams will have a look on them to snap up their youngsters in the near future. With Gokulam Kerala FC coming into the frame, it has laid a perfect stage for the youngsters from Kerala to impress the Kolkata clubs and also the Indian Super League sides, who will keep an eye on the I-League.
2) New Teams
Gokulam Kerala FC won the bid to field a team in the upcoming I-League on 18th August. This is a welcome change as Kerala had been invisible from the national football map, hence Gokulam FC will add a new flavour and ambience to India's National League. Gokulam FC will play from Kozhikode.
The Indian Arrows will be the second new addition to the team. They will play from New Delhi, althugh there have been talks about relocating some of their games to Goa. The resurrected edition of the Pailan Arrows project will be a mixed team of India U-17 World Cup squad and the India U-19 team. These will also uplift the young footballers to get a club of their own as scouts from all the big teams will keep an eye on them.
After winning the Secondnd Division title, NEROCA FC (North Eastern Re-Organising Cultural Association Football Club) will be raring to go in the upcoming I-League. With a perfect blend of International and domestic talent, the club from Manipur is set to take I-League by storm.
3) New Stadiums
With the recently concluded FIFA U-17 World Cup, India has been awarded with world class infrastructure at abundance. One of them is the gigantic Yuva Bharati Krirangan. The revamped stadium, also known as the Salt Lake Stadium, has taken the Indian football fans by storm as it looked stunning through out the mega event.
Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan will be back playing their home games in the stadium which will also pull better crowd due to it's prime Location in the City of Joy.
Gokulam FC's entry to the I-League will also bring a new stadium to the frame as they will play from EMS Stadium in Kozhikode. The 40,000-capacity stadium hosted the famous SAIT Nagjee Tournament. A football crazy region is expected to draw fans for the Malabar side.
The Indian Arrows will play from the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi. A Home for the Subroto Cup, Durand Cup and several other tournaments. The Old Delhi folk in the Capital would be more than happy to get raw football action back in the city.
Due to non-availability of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai because of the Indian Super League, Chennai City FC have been forced to play theirhome games 500 kms away in Coimbatore, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. A host of the Inter-School and SAI games, this stadium also is a 30,000-seater.
The promotion of Neroca FC has also brought about in yet another stadium to the national platform. The Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal is another a huge arena with a capacity of 30,000. Painted in the NEROCA Club colours, this is the one stadium which is sure to impress the away teams and fans.
Reports have also emerged that East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are willing to play few home matches in their own stadiums. Both of them are compact stadiums with 20,000 capacity, but nothing has been finalised.
4) Telecast on Star Sports
After a series of meetings among FSDL (Football Sports Development Limited), AIFF (All India Football Federation), IMG-R, I-League Organising Committee and the participating clubs, Star Sports had agreed to telecast the I-League 2017/18 games way back in June.
The I-League is just around the corner, and there has been no adverts or any sort of promotion from the telecast partners, which has left the fans in dark over whether Star Sports will provide a better television ambience compared to Ten Sports.
I-League on Star Sports will be extremely beneficial for the league (if done properly) as Star Sports are debatably the biggest Sports Telecast Brand in India.
5) Six North-Eastern Derbies
With the promotion of NEROCA FC, I-League will see six encounters between the NorthEastern teams as Aizawl FC and Shillong Lajong seek redemption. Within a 500 km radius, I-League is all set to get an increment in the attendance records by such close proximity matches, which will surely develop into local rivalries in the coming years.
The North Eastern clubs with their massive fan following and passion are sure to take the I-League banter and rivalry to the next level.