I-League Kicks Off In India Amid Financial Gloom, Player-Sharing Disagreements
The latest edition of the I-League, which kicked off Saturday, "threatens to be as lacklustre as the previous six forays," according to Ayon Sengupta of THE HINDU. Known as the National League for the first 11 years, "Indian football's top division remains largely Kolkata and Goa-centric and without a team from northern India." The All India Football Federation has failed to adhere to the Asian Football Confederation's dictate to professionalize football and "managed to rope in Airtel as the title sponsor only a day prior to the start." Last season's champion, Churchill Brothers, "continues to wait for a big portion" of its Rs. 70 lakh ($112,500) prize. The 13 participating clubs, which have again failed to fulfill the AFC's club licensing criteria, "have been hit hard by the slowing down of the economy and the knock-on effect of the chit fund scam in Bengal." However, "the financial gloom has not stopped the clubs from bringing in about 20 new foreign players." AIFF's marketing partner IMG-Reliance's rigid stance about its proposed three-month-long Indian Premier League-style league early next year "has caused further trouble, with the clubs and IMG-R failing to come up with an agreeable solution on player sharing" (THE HINDU, 9/21).