The I–League has started and since its inception this will be the first time the League is being held without its charm. In a way, the originality of the I–league has been lost after the withdrawal of Salgaocar FC, Sporting Clube de Goa and Dempo Sports club.
The three clubs from Goa are not just three ordinary clubs. In fact two of them have a history that the new comers into the sport will not be aware of. It is not just about the history of when and why they started but the history of football players they were a nesting ground for over half a century.
The loss of history is the loss of football in India.
The I–League is going to be different from the competitive point of view too because the new teams that have joined the I-League did not have enough time to prepare themselves for the competition. Time is the essence of any competition and the new entrants had very little time to get their act together to be ready for the final countdown of Indian football.
Churchill Brothers, Chennaiyin FC, Minerva and even Mumbai FC got into the I–League bandwagon pretty late and will find themselves in all sorts of problems against East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC – all three who have been planning keeping the competition in mind.
Any team needs time for team building. A team cannot be built in a day or a week or even two weeks. A minimum of a month is required if not more. Most of the teams who I have mentioned have hardly had any time to get their act together. When they really do, the tournament will be half way through and it will be a case of too late.
Players need plenty of time to understand each other. It is not something that can be done with a drawing board. Players interact or their understanding is groomed on the field through practices. With no time, such grooming starts during the matches and it eventually becomes a futile exercise.
The situation we are facing in the I –League is a situation created due to the presence of the ISL. Teams in the ISL face a similar problem. Players take time to adjust and by the time they do, the ISL is reaching its end or is over.
With the I–League scheduled just a few weeks after the end of the ISL it is not the teams but the players who are at the receiving end. Many of the players participating in the I-League are players who have performed in the ISL. It is they who suffer the most as they hardly get any chance to recover from one competition to the other.
Players need time to recuperate. They just cannot be thrown from one competition to the other. Apart from adjusting to new teammates, players have to adjust to another level of play and without proper rest it takes a toll on the players. This will explain why many players will not be able to perform to their best in the I-League. This is why the competitive level will suffer.
The competition in the I-League this year will be selectively between the two teams from Kolkata and the team from Bengaluru FC. East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru are the three teams that have been preparing themselves for the I–League.
Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have retained their key players and East Bengal has discarded their non performing players of last season.
Aizawl and DSK Shivajians are not new to the I-League and are capable of throwing in a few surprises. They cannot be underestimated nor can they be over estimated. They have the potential of throwing in a few surprises during the course of the I-league.
The problem football is facing in India is the indecisiveness over how the ISL and the I-League are going to merge. Rather, when they are going to merge. That the merger is taking place is a foregone conclusion. When? Is what is keeping football in tenterhooks?
It has been a long time now that the talk of the two league amalgamating has been taking place. The AIFF must realize that the longer it takes, the worse it will be not just football but football players in India. Certainty is required.
I hope this will be the last year that we will see this sort of game plan going on in India and by next year the new League will be in force. In that way, it is not just the players who are to benefit but the fans too.
Football in India is waiting for the change to happen. The sooner, the better ,or all. Hope that at the end of this I –League the picture will be very clear.