The I-League started on Saturday, perhaps on the most
low-key note the tournament has begun in its history.
Coming on the heels of the popular Indian Super League
(ISL), the official top flight division of Indian football seems to
have little takers, besides the fan base of traditional Kolkata
clubs -- East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, and current champions
Bengaluru FC. However, the game’s governing body, All India
Football Federation (AIFF), chooses to paint a different picture
about the state of the league. Their point: the I-League is played
across nine cities, and that the return of the league action to
Punjab and Chennai is a sign of its growing popularity.
Contrary to these claims, it’s now a well-known secret that the
I-League in its current form is at best a stopgap arrangement.
With plans being almost finalised to make ISL the top division
league in India, the I-League will be relegated to being a Second
Division. With its future uncertain, Goan teams Dempo, Salgaocar
and Sporting Clube withdrew from the I-League which is likely
in its last season as country’s top division. While the clubs chose
their fate, the cold manner in which the AIFF let them leave was
unfathomable. The writing is on the wall for the I-League, but
the AIFF has made it obvious by its testy decision-making.