I-League won't be ignored: Patel

I-League won't be ignored: Patel

I-League won't be ignored: Patel

The Hero Indian Super League promises to revolutionise the country’s football scene like never before but the All India Football Federation on Thursday maintained that its poorer and older cousin, I-League, continues to be the mainstay of the sport.

“There’s a lot of excitement as we embark on a new adventure. This is the first tournament of this nature approved by FIFA (world governing body of football) anywhere in the world. I-League is there and will continue to be the mainstay of Indian football but this (ISL) is a unique product,” said AIFF president Praful Patel at the logo launch.

“We are pleased to get into the partnership with IMG Reliance and Star to bring up Indian football. We are all looking forward to the exciting journey ahead,” Patel added.

ISL, an IPL-style tournament involving eight city-based franchise teams -- some of which are co-owned by retired cricket greats like Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly and Bollywood stars like Abhishek Bachchan who was on Thursday unveiled as co-owner of the new Chennai franchise, is set to kick off on October 12 and conclude on December 20.

The tournament has been floated jointly by IMG-Reliance and Star India and is fully backed by AIFF.

I-League, in which all the leading football clubs of the country take part, is more than a decade and a half old and doubts have been raised about its existence and relevance with the launching of the cash-rich ISL.

Thursday’s launch was done by Nita Ambani, chairperson of IMG-Reliance, in the presence of all the team owners, including Tendulkar who represented Kerala Blasters.

“Its a momentous day for us as we set ourselves in building a grand coalition among all stakeholders to develop football in the country and take it to its deserving space in Indian sports,” said Ambani, who is also the founding Chairperson of Football Sports Development.

“ISL hopes to act as a foundation in creating an ecosystem to nurture talent and make our own national football heroes through its ambitious grassroots development programme,” she added.