Indian football experts stand divided on the proposed ISL I-League merger
The AIFF on Tuesday took a major decision which can have long-term implications on Indian football. The 2017/18 season of Indian football will be in a completely new avatar, with three leagues being mooted to take football in India to a new level. The Indian Super League will be India’s top tier league with the I-League now re-christened to ‘League 1’, while the 2nd Division I-League will be called ‘League 2’. The ISL will not have any relegation, while League 1 and League 2 will have relegation and promotion for the time being.
Another major decision which was taken was to rechristen the Federation Cup to ‘Super Cup’, with teams from all three tiers taking part in that cup competition.
We spoke to a few luminaries in the field of Indian football, and here is what they had to say about this groundbreaking decision from the AIFF:
Henry Menezes – Former India National football team goalkeeper and CEO of Western India Football Association
“The ISL is well followed and the demand for football in India is rising. It is my opinion that a step like this was imperative. It will create a better final product and bring in the expertise required to further the global credentials of Indian football.
“The proposal also ensures that Indian teams participating in AFC club tournaments will have a much more competitive edge about them. The increase in investment is also going to ensure access to better infrastructure.”
Adlear D’Cruz – Current General Secretary of Salgaocar Football Club
“If there was anything positive to say, we would be discussing it. However, there is nothing here to be discussed at all.”
Mandar Tamhane – CTO of current I-League Champions Bengaluru FC
“It is something to look forward to for Indian football. However, nothing is set in stone right now. The repackaging has massive potential as it will lead to a well-defined calendar for club teams as well as the Indian National team.
“Player burnout will be a thing of the past. There will be about 300 televised matches. Therefore, the average Indian football fan will have so much more to look forward to. The caveat here is that certain amendments need to be made such as the relegation-promotion conundrum.”
Novy Kapadia – Reputed sports journalist and columnist, recognized as India’s leading football expert and commentator
“This is not a merger, it is a restructuring. This was a preliminary discussion and the crux of the matter was to remove friction and infighting. If there is no relegation and promotion, can match fixing be avoided?
“Indian football can only grow when state associations come together and forego vote bank politics. This kind of mindset shows Indian football has a long way to go.”
Eric Benny – Former footballer and manager of the Indian National team
"I believe it is the best way forward as a wider base with three divisions will bring top talent to the fore. If structured well and sustainable, many youngsters will get a chance to express themselves in front of a large audience.
“Change is inevitable and while I respect the work put in both Leagues, this seems to be the most progressive way forward because it ensures that everyone involved with the clubs will have a full season instead of just a three-month tournament.”
Aniket Mishra – Media Manager, LOC, 2017 Under-17 World Cup (to be held in India)
“It is a very positive move and while the apprehensions surrounding it are understandable, one has to realise that every Football Product has its own share of growing pains when it is being established. The J-League did not have relegation for many years. The same can be said for the MLS and the A-League when they were founded.
“At the end of the day, if the final product is presented in a professional manner, the crowds will lap it up and it will prove to be a major success.”