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‎I-League, ISL merger once again hits roadblock

Plans to amalgamate the I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL) have been put on hold now, said an official of a club who attended the meeting at All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel’s residence on Saturday.

football Updated: May 06, 2017 20:42 IST
I-League,Indian Super League,ISL
Aizawl FC surprised one and all to clinch the I-League title in April.(AIFF)

After nearly one year of trying to merge the I-League and Indian Super League (ISL), the All India Football Federation (AIFF) assured Mohun Bagan and East Bengal that the I-League would stay India’s official league but with a rider.

“We have been assured by the AIFF president that the I-League would stay the official league. We would then expect that I-League champions would, therefore, play in the Asian Champions League qualifiers,” said Debasish Datta, Mohun Bagan’s finance secretary.

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Plans to amalgamate the leagues have been put on hold now, said an official of a club who attended the meeting at AIFF president Praful Patel’s residence on Saturday. It won’t be merged for the next three to four years, said a source in the AIFF.

Representatives of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal met Patel and AIFF officials. ‎The club officials were told that in the interest of football in India something needs to be shared with the ISL franchises, who too have put in a lot of money.

It is, therefore, possible that champions of a new tournament, called the Super Cup, would represent India in the Asian Champions League (ACL) qualifiers. Hitherto, that privilege was accorded to I-League champions.

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A proposal to have the champions of the Super Cup, where the top-four teams of ISL and I-League would play, represent India in the Champions League qualifier is being readied, said a club official who attended the meeting but did not want to be named as he is not authorised to talk to the media.

“The proposal is to have the I-League and ISL champions get AFC Cup berths and the Super Cup winners will play the ACL qualifiers. So, how does the I-League then stay India’s official league and what does such an official league mean‎,” said the official.

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To that end, the AIFF is likely to seek an extra berth in the AFC Cup. It was learnt that officials of the AIFF’s commercial partners along with the federation president and general secretary Kushal Das may travel to the AFC Congress in Bahrain next week to make a case for this.

But AFC Cup slots have been fixed for the next few seasons. The only way India can get an extra AFC Cup berth is if one of its teams qualifies for the Champions League.

No AIFF official wanted to confirm or deny this. But both in terms of players available and stadia holding these competitions together could prove to be a logistical nightmare.

First Published: May 06, 2017 20:41 IST