It was also revealed that the top flight is set to begin in October, after the ISL.
Unlike the Indian Super League, which is reportedly set to have three international breaks during its season to accommodate India‘s AFC Asian Cup preparations, the I-League is not going to have any international breaks, due to the sides not agreeing to have any intervals, reports suggest.
The ISL is all set to kick-off towards the end of September and will pause its matches during international breaks in October and November to make way for the friendly matches that the Indian national team is set to play leading up to the Asian Cup in January. The tournament is also set to have a one-month break during the tournament, making sure that the focus can be on the national team during that period of time.
But, according to the CEO of the I-League, Sunando Dhar, the teams have themselves requested the organizers to ignore any kind of international break during the season. He spoke to Sportstar on Monday and said, “There won’t be any breaks, That’s what the I-League sides have decided. The I-League teams will play their matches without the players who will be representing the national team.”
This seems to be an understandable stance from the I-League teams as I-League players have scarcely received opportunities to shine for the national team because of head coach Stephan Constantine‘s preference for ISL stars instead. Only the likes of Md Rafique, Alan Deory, and Laldanmawia Ralte were the recent I-League players to break through into the national side, but with Rafique and Deory now also playing in the ISL, only I-League giants East Bengal could have to be without Laldanmawia Ralte during the Asian Cup and the months leading up to it.
There are unlikely to be many I-League players even chosen for the Indian national team camp heading into the Asian Cup, which has resulted in the teams being unwilling to have international breaks to disrupt their season. The stark preference which Constantine has shown for ISL players has played a part in the I-League teams voting against the need for an international break.
Dhar further explained the I-League stance during India’s matches in the Asian Cup and said, “On the day of India’s matches at the Asian Cup, there won’t be I-League matches.” It was also indicated by the I-League CEO that the new season might kick-off from the last week of October, while the preliminary stages of the I-League second division will also start from November.
He said, “We are talking to the broadcaster (Star Sports) and hopefully, it will be in the last week of October. The second division’s preliminary round will start in the second week of November and the final round will be in March-April.”
It seems that just like last season, this time the I-League will kick-off after the ISL is up and running. But, the ISL’s international breaks make it possible for both league’s to finish simultaneously, so that the Super Cup can kick-off much earlier this season.