Will the controversial 2nd Division I-League give birth to a new format?

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By Dhritiman Nandi

The second highest division in Indian football is I league 2. It was renamed as I league 2 in the year 2008. The format of I league 2 is not same as I league. The league was formatted as a neutral venue competition with teams split into groups in which all the groups play preliminary round in one venue. The final round is contested in a two legged final in which the top two teams at the end get promoted to the I-League.

In this year seven teams locked horn with each other for a place into I-league. The venues were Siliguri (West Bengal) & Gangtak (Sikkim) respectively. United Sikkim Football club & ONGC Mumbai got promoted after a close battle with Mohomedan Sporting of Kolkata. But the allegations & controversies after the end of the I league 2 made it scandalous. 

The federation could avoid such scandalous circumstances by introducing a proper home & away league format. Every year almost 20 to 25 teams are participating in the preliminary round. The teams from North East have huge fan following. They have good stadiums in respective state capitals like in Guahati, Gangtok, Shillong and in Aizwal. So there is a possibility of a home and away league having eighteen or twenty teams. Just imagine Kalighat MS of Kolkata is playing Aizwal FC at home in Kolkata and then going to Aizwal to play the return leg! This system will help clubs to create their own fan base. The clubs should start adopting the AFC guidelines within a target year. There are so many small towns in Bengal having small capacity football grounds, these grounds can be allocated to respective teams and the teams will use these grounds as their homegrounds. The league should be scheduled to start in September – October once the rain is over in hills and finishes within April then it will match the football calendar also. The champions and the runners of I league 2 will be promoted to the I league respectively.

What could be the drawback of this home and away league format? It would be hard for few teams who generally have six months contracts with their players. There is a high possibility that third grade African strikers will feature in most of the teams. Teams will need more money to keep the entire team for whole season. If federation can implement single foreigner on the pitch at any given time policy then fresh talent will grow automatically.

The Indian strikers who don’t make it to the first XI of I-league can opt for better playing opportunities by choosing I-league 2. The game will grow faster across the country which is the need of the hour.

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