2016 Hero I-League Preview
Football is taking giant steps in India and is clearly the second largest sport in the country after cricket, and growing rapidly. India’s national football league – known as the Hero I-League – is an Indian professional league for men’s association football clubs.
The competition was formed as the ONGC I-League in 2007 in an effort to professionalize the game in India after holding the old National Football League for eleven seasons.
Contested by 9 clubs currently it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the I-League 2nd division as well as a system of direct entry.
The 2015 I-League season was a thriller as the league was decided on the very last day between the recently formed Bengaluru F.C. and the oldest Indian club Mohun Bagan F.C. Bengaluru were the defending champions, having won the league in their first-ever season. Mohun Bagan had to draw or win the game to win the title, while Bengaluru had to win outright. The final score was 1-1, with Bello Rasaq breaking Bengaluru hearts in the 81st minute. Mohan Bagan thus won their first I-League title. One of India’s oldest clubs and 5 time I-League champions Dempo F.C. were relegated to division two.
As thrilling and exciting the year 2015 was in the footballing sense, all was not rosy off the field as clubs such as Royal Wahingdoh F.C., Pune F.C. and Bharat F.C. shut down operations citing financial inability and lack of a future plan for the league, with the ISL – I League standoff still existing.
As we enter the year 2016 the I-League has two new additions to the league in the form of Aizawl F.C. from Mizoram who were I-league 2nd division winners and direct entrants DSK Shivajians who are funded by the DSK group and also have a tie up with the Liverpool academy.
The I-League will be telecasted by sports broadcasters TenAction.
This year’s I-League has exciting talent to look forward to like the emergence of new young Indian players Udanta Singh (Bengaluru F.C.), Milan Singh (Shillong Lajong F.C.) and Lallianzuala (DSK Shivajians), the last of whom recently made his debut for India against Maldives in the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015, and scored two brilliant goals against Nepal.
The 2016 Hero I-league promises to be a cracker!