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Mohun Bagan’s Sony Norde finds I-League tougher than ISL, here is why

With the I-League running simultaneously with the Indian Super League (ISL), teams from the top-flight of Indian football, including Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan, have lost a number of key players to the younger competition.

football Updated: Nov 23, 2017 18:09 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
I-League,ISL,Indian Super League
Mohun Bagan’s Sony Norde, who has played for Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League (ISL), opted to stick to his Kolkata club and play in the I-League this season.(Mohun Bagan/Twitter)

With the new I-League season set to start this Saturday, 2015 champions Mohun Bagan are aiming to reclaim the title that they lost narrowly in the last two campaigns.

The new season has seen huge changes in the squads of all teams, as well as the arrival of three new sides in the form of Gokulam Kerala, newly-promoted NEROCA and AIFF’s developmental side, Indian Arrows.

With the league running simultaneously alongside the Indian Super League (ISL), teams from the top-flight of Indian football have lost a number of key players to the younger competition.

Speaking to Hindustan Times on the sidelines of the official launch of the I-League earlier this week, Bagan head coach Sanjoy Sen, who led them to the title in 2015, said winning the title will be anything but easy this term, despite the departure of two-time champions Bengaluru FC.

“We don’t know about the other teams actually; especially this year, most of the players from all clubs have gone to the ISL. Our team and other teams are very new, so we will have to watch two-three games and see. Last year I was asked this question too, and I had said no. It was Aizawl who eventually won the title,” said Sen.

“If you are working with the same squad, it’s an added advantage. Now it’s a big challenge. I have to guide the players and I have already told some of the senior players who have been here for some time, like Sony (Norde), Shilton (Paul) and Kingshuk (Debnath), to guide the other players as well,” he explained.

When asked about Bengaluru FC move to the ISL, he said, “We will miss Bengaluru FC definitely. In football, it is always important to play quality teams in order to develop your own game. (At the same time) we will have to move on also.”

One of the most popular faces of the top-flight, Haitian winger Sony Norde, agreed that the I-League title-race won’t be just between two teams.

“Bengaluru, we will miss them, but I-League will not be easy. There are quite a few good teams, (not just East Bengal and Mohun Bagan), NEROCA, Lajong, Aizawl and the others. I-League this season will be very difficult,” he said.

Asked what prompted him to stay with Bagan despite lucrative offers from ISL clubs, Norde insisted it was the support of the club’s fans which convinced him not to switch sides after three seasons with the Mariners.

“I had five offers from ISL teams, but my reason (to stay) was the love I got from the (Mohun Bagan) supporters,” he said.

Norde, who also played for Mumbai City FC in two editions of the ISL, said the I-League is the more physically demanding competition.

“In the ISL you get a lot of quality players, but I think the I-League is more difficult to play (in). When I play I-League, I get more tired, I have more (of a) job to do,” he explained.

Mohun Bagan play their first game of the season away in Ludhiana against Minerva Punjab FC on Saturday.

First Published: Nov 23, 2017 18:02 IST