Several players from top tier clubs have moved to the third tier for the upcoming mini-tournament.
The I-League 2nd Division mini-tournament is all set to kickoff in September and it will become the first sporting event to restart in the country following the break due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the mini-tournament will be played at the Kalyani Stadium in West Bengal, the official announcement of the schedule and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) is yet to be made. Yet, clubs are busy in the transfer market and are poaching talents to gain promotion to the I-League for the upcoming season.
The 2nd Division usually kicks off in January or February every year. However, the league came to a halt due to the pandemic. The AIFF has decided to conduct a mini-tournament comprising of non-reserve I-League and ISL sides. According to the rules, eight teams were eligible to participate, but FC Kerala have pulled out while AU Rajasthan and Lonestar Kashmir asked for some clarifications from the AIFF in order to confirm participation. ARA FC, Bhawanipore FC, FC Bengaluru United, Garhwal FC and Mohammedan Sporting have confirmed their entries.
We at Khel Now, list five of the most high-profile signings made by the clubs for the upcoming I-League 2nd Division mini-tournament:
5. Ronaldo Oliveira (FC Bengaluru United)
The Salgaocar youth academy product is one of the exciting forwards in the country. He came into the limelight ever since he scored 23 goals for the Goan club in the 2018-19 season of the Goa Professional League. Since then, he signed for East Bengal in 2019 on a three-year deal, following a three-week trial. Unfortunately, the move did not reap rewards. The player eventually jumped ship to Kerala Blasters Reserves earlier this year on a short-term deal.
Ronaldo Oliveira rejuvenated his lost charisma for the Kochi-based outfit and scored four goals in five games in the 2nd Division before the season came to an abrupt end. Having acquired his services, the Richard Hood-led side would be hoping for consistent performances from the Goan, as they leave no stones unturned for the prestigious I-League spot.
4. Philip Adjah (Bhawanipore FC)
The Ghanaian striker has recorded very impressive stats ever since he moved to India, scoring 44 goals in 45 appearances. Adjah represented Mohammedan Sporting in the Calcutta Football League 2018 and also the 2018-19 I-League 2nd Division, where he was the top scorer of the season.
In the 2019 edition of the CFL, he represented Calcutta Customs in six games scoring four goals, before being snapped up by NEROCA FC for their I-League campaign. He had an impressive debut in the I-League too, as he went on to score nine goals in as many games, while also providing two assists.
3. Ansumana Kromah (Bhawanipore FC)
The Liberian striker is a household name in the Indian football circuit. He came to India in 2016 and represented Peerless in the CFL. Since then, he has gone on to represent various teams in the I-League, including Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. He has also represented Churchill Brothers and former champions Aizawl FC in the league.
That said, he had an underwhelming last season with the Red and Gold, scoring a solitary goal in eight games. Kromah would like to start afresh in the upcoming I-League 2nd Division tournament and help the Kolkata-based side gain promotion.
2. Willis Plaza (Mohammedan SC)
Willis Plaza is one of the consistent forwards in the I-League, having scored 39 goals in 56 games playing for East Bengal and Churchill Brothers. The 33-year-old Trinidad and Tobago international had also represented Mohammedan in a short stint in 2018.
Mohammedan SC have made some quality signings for the upcoming tournament and they would like their talisman from the Caribbean to score goals aplenty.
1. Shouvik Ghosh (Mohammedan SC)
Shouvik Ghosh is undoubtedly the biggest high-profile signing in the league. The former I-League-winner is all set to represent Mohammedan in the upcoming tournament. Ghosh, who primarily plays as a left-back, is set to become one of the rare players to play in all three divisions of Indian football.
The 27-year-old has represented NorthEast United, Mumbai City FC and Jamshedpur FC in the ISL and and also played for Mohun Bagan and Pailan Arrows in the I-League. His experience at the top-level will come in handy for the Kolkata-based side.
Special Mentions: Samuel Shadap (Mohammedan SC), Kimkima (Bhawanipore FC)