I-League clubs not short on motivation despite Kolkata giants joining ISL

Kolkata: Players in action during an ISL 2018 match between ATK and Bengaluru FC in Kolkata on Oct 31, 2016. (Photo: Kuntal Chakrabart/IANS)

New Delhi, Oct 1 (IANS) They might be a little disheartened with two Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan joining hands with the countrys top competition, the Indian Super League (ISL), but I-League clubs are not short on motivation to fight it out in the once premier league of the country.

Talking to IANS, VC Praveen, President of Kerala-based Gokulam FC, said: “Mohun Bagan joining the ISL came to me as a surprise, because they were the club which always said that I-League should be given more importance than ISL. But they have now joined hands with ATK to play in the ISL.

“However, as far as East Bengal are concerned, they had a different owner last year, but this year the ownership has changed. I don’t know how these clubs playing in the ISL, with whatever name, is going to help Indian football. I can only say that footballers from these clubs will now get an opportunity to be selected in the Indian team.

“For the last few years, being in the I-League, their players were not getting enough chances, as mainly the ISL players were chosen for the national team. That will be the only difference. Otherwise, I don’t see how East Bengal and Mohun Bagan joining the ISL is going to help Indian football.”

The co-owner of Real Kashmir FC, Sandeep Chattoo, however, feels that the Kolkata giants joining the ISL bandwagon will only open up opportunities for the other clubs to grab the limelight.

“Though it is very unfortunate for I-League that both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have joined the ISL, it is also a big opportunity for the other clubs to grab the limelight.

“That said, these two clubs had an aura about them and other teams looked forward to play against East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. But it’s only a matter of a couple of years before other teams too get promoted to ISL,” Chattoo pointed out.

Ranjit Bajaj of Minerva Punjab FC, now rechristened Punjab FC, said the ISL management always wanted to rope in the three top teams of the I-League — East Bengal-Mohun Bagan and Bangaluru FC — into their fold.

“While Bangaluru joined them a couple of years back, they have now succeeded in roping in East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Actually, these were the teams that other I-League clubs always looked forward to play against.

“These were the clubs that drew spectators to the ground and increased TV viewership. But then, only time will tell how a closed league like the ISL will help Indian football grow,” Bajaj said.

It can be recalled that six I-League clubs — East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Punjab FC, Gokulam FC, Churchill Brothers and Aizawl FC — had joined hands last year to fight the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) alleged intention to promote the ISL as the main league of country and simultaneously demote the I-League. They had even written to the Prime Minister for his intervention in the matter.

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