The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is all set to revamp the country’s footballing structure, by merging both I-league and Indian Super League (ISL) by 2018. However, the governing body is not terming the association a merger as it is looking to change several nuances within its administrative hierarchy as well.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said, “We have had discussion regarding changing the entire structure. We are not merging both the leagues, but we are attempting to create a completely new one that will encompass India’s football ecosystem. The talks are at a preliminary stage, but the decision has been taken.
Das insisted it is not necessarily just a mere merger of two tournaments but a holistic approach to unite all top clubs of the country under a common umbrella.
He added, “Our initial plans was to complete this by 2017 so that it would go in tandem with the U-17 World Cup. However, we have taken a collective decision on not rushing this, hence our last date for execution will be late 2018.”
Das was speaking at a programme at which an Indo-French joint initiative to develop football in the country was announced.
The I-League’s failure to connect with the masses paved way for the Indian Super League’s (ISL) emergence in 2014. The new tournament, laced with a heavy dose of glitz and glamour, has diminished the prominence of I-League even further.
According to our sources within AIFF, the packed trilateral Indian football calendar has forced this particular change. Sources added, “In any given calendar year, first comes the ISL, then I-league, and then again Federation Cup. This doesn’t reflect well on a football federation. No country in the world has something like this, and we don’t want to do it either. Hence, we have narrowed down on 2018 to revamp our system.”
More so, FIFA doesn’t allow two sanctioned leagues to function in one nation, during a calendar year. Our source added, “The introduction of an U-14 league is also one of the stepping stone of changing the system. If you see all top European nations have various age divisions, where players keep graduating. India didn’t have this before. We are also planning on completely changing our grassroots structure.”
Das refused to divulge any information, regarding the planning process, but confirmed that a consensus was reached for the plan. Earlier reports had suggested that AIFF have been contemplating the merger for months now.”
Das also added that Indian national team coach Stephen Constantine’s job is currently under review. He said, “We are waiting for the game against Laos in June. He has a contract till June, but we are yet to discuss a potential successor to his throne.”
Our sources also confirmed that Kolkata will be having at least two teams to in the 2018 league. He said, “Kolkata will obviously have two teams as we would like to cash in on the regional rivalry there. Bengaluru’s absence in the ISL is a major miss as the city has an educated crowd. North East is also being looked at as a potential two venue region.”
This if successful will go a long way in developing footballing culture in the country of 1.2 billion people. Top European clubs like Liverpool, Barcelona and Manchester United have also been investing in the country and setting up schools based on the lines of facilities that already exists in Europe.
If things go to plan, the country has a very bright future ahead. After all football is a spectator sport and the world’s second most populous country cannot afford such a low FIFA ranking.