The league kicks off this weekend and it promises to be one of the most exciting season’s in recent history.
The 11th edition of the Hero I-League was launched at an event in the capital earlier today which also featured a media interaction with the various stakeholders partaking in the top flight this season. With the league set to kickoff at the weekend, we bring you all that you need to know.
The I-League is set to provide more excitement and inspiring action this year with the addition of three new teams from three different states. The three new additions are – Gokulam Kerala FC from Calicut, NEROCA FC from Imphal, Manipur and Indian Arrows from Delhi. With their individual football cultures and heritage, these teams will significantly enhance the reach of the league in the country.
The 11th edition will also be rewarding for the players with significant prize money at stake for the top teams – Winners (₹1 crore), Runners-Up ₹60 lakhs), Third Place (₹40 lakhs) and Fourth Place (Rs 25 lakhs).
This edition will witness the country’s elite football league returning to the national capital, with the AIFF developmental team, Indian Arrows, making a comeback. The India U-17 team head coach Luis Norton de Matos of Portugal would be their head coach. The team is a mix of India U-17 and India U-19 team players.
The conference began with Hero Motor Corp’s Sports Advisor J. Narain, addressing the increased popularity of football and football and the frenzy created in the country by the recently concluded FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“We are entering the second decade of a highly successful I-League. We are just back from a successful FIFA U-17 World Cup. It has truly put India on the global football map. The success marks the renaissance in Indian football. We are looking forward to great support so that Indian football has a great future,” said Narain.
He added, “Hero has always been a committed promoter of sports across various disciplines, including football. I am pleased to see this game growing in the country, especially amongst the youth. I believe football has the potential to become one of the top sports in the country.”
The feed to the primary source
“This year is all about showcasing what the I-League has been doing for years. Launching Indian football’s future stars. History is testament that the I-League has laid the foundation for Indian football stars to go ahead and shine in their careers and make the country proud. The edition also pays special tribute to the coaches who create those stars with their dedication and commitment towards the beautiful game.”
“We are happy to welcome Kerala back in the league and the return of I-League football to Delhi. I believe these new developments along with the clubs from the Northeast, West Bengal, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Goa will make the league even more competitive and interesting. I would like to convey my best wishes to all the participating clubs of this year’s edition,” said All India Football Federation General Secretary, Kushal Das.
Much better broadcasts
This year Star Sports hasve bagged the broadcasting rights of the league. Thus, there will be high-quality coverage of all matches grabbing tons of new followers.
Still the premier league of the country
“Officially the winner of the I-league gets to compete in the AFC Champions League. What we are trying to do is to develop Indian football, the leagues are just a way to do it. Of course, there is much more money in the ISL as compared to the I-league, but there is the legacy of the clubs in I-league. We haven’t found the right solution for it (I-league-ISL merger) but we are working on it. In the end, it is for the development of Indian football and I am sure we will find the right solution,” explained Das.
New teams, new players and new challenges to look forward to
“Earlier we had 14 teams from just five venues. We were calling it a national league but it didn’t have a national feel to it. So, we wanted that there should be teams coming from different venues thus spreading the game across the country. Today, we have 10 teams from nine different venues with new teams like Arrows from Delhi, NEROCA from Manipur and its great to have Gokulam Kerala FC from Calicut.”
“It’s good to see teams investing heavily in infrastructure. We have six world-class venues which hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup. There are 6-7 more stadiums which can reach that level too ultimately developing Indian football,” said I-league CEO Sunando Das.
The event also introduced the captains and coaches of all the 10 teams participating this season.
With the ISL taking Indian football to a whole new level, it seems that I-league has taken charge of India’s emerging youth talent as most of the I-League clubs consist of exciting young players.
With better televised coverage of the league and growing infrastructure, these youngsters have a great chance to showcase their talent in front of the large audience.
Excerpts from the Coaches and Players:
Luis Norton De Matos – “We’re here to learn more and we have to give our best. If we draw, if not win, it’s a great victory for us and we are positive for the challenges.”
“Earlier it was Pailan Arrows, now Indian Arrows. The name may be different but I believe the players are amazing. It’ll be challenge for everyone including them. So, let’s see how everyone copes with that,” said Mohun Bagan Coach, Sanjoy Sen about new entrants Indian Arrows.
The coaches were full of energy at the pre-tournament interaction
Bobby Nongbet, Head Coach Shillong Lajong said, “I have faith in the young players coming from the academy and they’re capable of pulling off a great show as a team.”
Syhlo Malsawmtuanga, Captain, Aizawl FC said, “Last season was amazing and this year also we expect the fans to come out in large numbers and provide the necessary
East Bengal Head Coach, Khalid Jamil said “Expectations are high from us. We are here to give a big fight and hopefully win the league this year.”
The 10 teams from eight states of the 11th Hero I-League are – Defending Champions Aizawl FC (Mizoram), Neroca FC (Manipur), ShillongLajong FC (Meghalaya), Mohun Bagan AC &Kingfihser East Bengal (West Bengal), Minerva Punjab (Punjab), Gokulam Kerala FC (Kerala), Churchill Brothers FC Goa (Goa), Indian Arrows (Delhi), Chennai City FC (Chennai).