It is back to bread and butter as I-League action returns post the euphoric ISL

I league

The eight edition of the Hero I-League is upon us, as its time for India to ‘Football’ again, this time in a more traditional manner, in shape of the country’s premier football competition.

This year’s edition will have a curtailed list of participants as two time champions Churchill Brothers, United Sports Club and Rangadajied United were axed from the I-League after failing to pass the licensing criteria.

Despite the lack of regular number of participants, this edition of the I-League throws plenty of talking points and some interesting facts and figures which we have taken a look at.

1. First ever I-League post the ISL

Indian Football has been in discussions quite a lot of late in the global footballing circles with the Indian Super League arriving on the scene in fantastic fashion. The league was graced by some legendary footballing personalities in Allesandro Del Piero, Robert Pires and Marco Matterazzi and eye catching crowds which ensured the league was a huge success.

With so many players from the I-League participating in the ISL, you cannot take away the influence ISL will have on the I-League this time around. Only time will tell, the nature of the impact the ISL will have, but we hope it will bring the Indian football lover closer to Indian football and the I-League.

2. The Champion’s Curse

Bengaluru FC created history as they were crowned Champions of India in their debut season as they overcame the challenge of twelve other experienced teams. If we thought that there was no challenge bigger than winning the league in the debut season, Bengaluru face the Champion’s curse as they bid to become I-League’s first ever back to back Champions. The last team to defend the Indian Football Championship was East Bengal in 2004, which was four years before the I-League came into existence.

3. End of a dominance?

Indian football was all about two states; Goa and West Bangal. The two states share fifteen Indian Championships between themselves. Bengaluru FC’s win last year was only the third time the Indian Championship went outside the two footballing hubs of the country. It was also the first winner of the I-League outside Goa.

Bengaluru FC’s win in the Federation Cup that was held in Goa, only cements their place as the team to beat in India. Will this usher in a new era in Indian Football? Will it mark the end of the Goa-Kolkatta dominance on Indian Football? Only time will tell.

4. The renaissance in Pune Football and the entry of Bharat FC

The I-League will have a fresh team from this season with Kalyani Group’s Bharat FC from Pune entering the fray. Bharat FC caught everyone’s eye after capturing the country’s top players in Gourmangi Singh, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Steven Dias and Adil Khan. To add to the crop of local players, Bharat FC will be further boosted by the service of the New Zealander Kris Bright. Stuart Watkiss will be looking to draw inspiration from Bengaluru FC who triumphed in their very first season of existence. This comes as a huge lift for football in Pune as they will have a derby of their own.

5. Cooperage calling as Mumbai FC return to playing football in the city

Cooperage’s makeover is finally complete as football lovers in Mumbai will have the pleasure of supporting their team without making the 150 kilometer trip to the south in Pune. Mumbai FC will be playing their home games in the brand new stadium. The city’s solitary outfit will be hoping the new stadium brings new fortune to the city as Mumbai FC bid to be Mumbai’s first ever I-League winner.
There are plenty of things to look forward as the I-League kicks off tomorrow. We at Football Counter would like to wish all the teams luck and hope the best team wins. The schedule of this weekend’s program is as follows:

Saturday | 17/01/2015 | Match day 1
1. Salgaonkar SC vs Pune FC – 4:30 PM IST
2. Bengaluru FC vs Dempo SC – 7:00 PM IST

Sunday | 18/01/2015 | Match day 2
1. Mc Dowell’s Mohun Bagan vs Mumbai FC – 4:30 PM IST
2. Shillong Lahjong FC vs Royal Wahingdoh – 4:30 PM IST
3. Sporting Club de Goa vs Kingfisher East Bengal – 7:00 PM IST

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