After ISL frenzy, I-League starts Saturday with limited fanfare

The national league has been reduced to a nine-team affair after the withdrawal of Royal Wahingdoh, Pune FC and Bharat FC teams.

After ISL frenzy, I-League starts Saturday with limited fanfare

New Delhi: 18 days after the completion of Indian Super League's second edition (ISL), the official league in the country – I-League – will start with limited fanfare with defending champions Mohun Bagan taking on new boys Aizawl FC in Kolkata on Saturday.

Mohun Bagan are also scheduled to host arch-rivals East Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium on January 23, while the return leg of the contest is slated to be played on April 2.

But uncertainties still persist over the venue of the storied derby as the traditional venue, the Salt Lake stadium, will be handed over for renovation for the Under-17 World Cup in 2017 and hence no matches will be held there after January.

Besides, the success of franchise-based ISL, albeit with the blessing of both the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), has put the very existence of the national league in doubt, with many calling for the merger of the two.

In fact, Royal Wahingdoh, Pune FC and Bharat FC had withdrawn from the league, leaving it only a nine-team competition.

Aizawl FC were promoted to the top division after winning the second division league last season.

Fellow newcomers Pune-based DSK Shivajians will host Mohun Bagan on January 30 at the Balewadi Stadium.

Bengaluru FC, East Bengal, Mumbai FC, Salgaocar FC, Shillong Lajong and Sporting Goa are the teams.

A launching function of the league was held at a south Kolkata hotel on Wednesday. Footballers from each of the nine teams were present in the ceremony.