Author: Abhishek Shukla

I-League clubs proposed a new league format

CHENNAI: I-League clubs held a meeting in Chennai in sidelines of Chennai City FC’s crowning event and worked-out a new League structure involving 36 clubs. The restructuring plan is sent to AIFF on 18th March 2019 and 9 I-League clubs wants to meet AIFF president, Praful Patel to discuss I-Leagues future.

In the restructured League 20 clubs will play in the top tier and will pay 2 crore fees instead of 13-18 crores franchisee fees paid by Indian Super League Clubs at present. 2 teams will be relegated and 2 will be promoted from 2nd Division every season.

Concern Areas

I-League clubs have been the backbone of the development of Indian football and is now facing an uncertain future.

All ISL Indian players have their roots in some I-League Club or the other but that fact is being overlooked.

There is no marketing of the league whatsoever.

The question arises why is these new franchises being protected over heritage clubs of the country.

As per the current format, the Franchises of ISL are incurring huge loss every year and there are absolutely no chances or a roadmap to recover the losses in the near future. Hence the sustainability of the League falls under a big Question.

Way Forward

A 20 team professional league i.e. – IFL (Indian Football League)

Duration of the league: 9 Months, September to May.

Cup games to be played between game weeks. (European format)

Providing players with approximately 40 matches which is a minimum requirement for their development.

Marketing of the league to be done centrally.

All matches to be broadcasted live.

Promotion and Relegation to be implemented with no exemptions. (2 teams promoted and 2 teams relegated)

Parachute payment to be made to relegated teams.

Maximum number of 4 foreigners in each team (More focus on domestic players + reduced overall budget.)

Mandatory signing of players from home states. (Developing local talent and maintaining community connect)Strong Youth Development Projects of all teams.

Financial Suggestions

At present ISL clubs are paying franchise fee of INR 13-18 Crores and receiving INR 8-12 Crores from the central pool.

FSDL effectively raised net 150 Crores by marketing the 95 games in the season.

The proposed 20 team revamped League, would have 380 matches. (4X the current number)

We can take a conservative/ practical approach and generate a total net sponsorship revenue to the tune of INR 325 Crores (Slightly more than 2X increase).

This revenue can be divided in the following way:
                           20 teams X 12 crores = 240 Crores
                           Pool amount to AIFF = 50 Crores
                           16 teams of 2nd Division X 2 crores = 32 Crores
                           Parachute payment (2 relegated teams) X 2 crores = 4 Crores 

Investments can be done by the clubs in youth development, Infrastructure development (floodlights, various rooms, etc), fan and community engagement, in-stadia experience enhancements and improve overall home match organisation.

The additional funds available with the clubs would help them to fulfil various AFC club licensing criteria in its true spirit.

Mandatory 10% of team’s budget to be spent on youth development in line with  AFC Club Licensing Criteria.

Each team to pay INR 2 Crore participation money to AIFF / FSDL and no other franchisee / participation fee.

Minerva Punjab and seven other I-League Clubs withdraw from Hero Super Cup 2019

Chandigarh: I-League side Minerva Punjab FC have withdrawn from the upcoming Hero Super Cup 2019 tournament citing the unfair treatment dished out to the I-League teams.

Minerva’s withdrawal is in unison win the united withdrawal of all I-league clubs (barring Shillong Lajong, Churchill Brothers, Real Kashmir, and Indian Arrows) from the Super cup due to reasons mentioned in identical letters sent by all clubs to  All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary, Kushal Das today.

The clubs pointed out that the I-League clubs are being neglected by all aspects by the country’s football federation. Eight I-League clubs had written a letter to the AIFF in February this year regarding multiple concerns such as the future of the I-League but they are yet to hear back from the country’s football federation. The clubs also highlighted how the AIFF has not provided any financial assistance to the participating teams despite having a title sponsor for the event. With no AFC competitions also on offer, the clubs felt the competition lacked any incentive.

The Hero Cup is a knockout tournament hosted by the AIFF where I-League teams lock horns against the Indian Super League teams. It is India’s main club knockout tournament and Minerva was scheduled to play the qualifying round against FC Pune City on the 15th of March. The clubs will now wait for a response from the AIFF before taking a decision.

ISL 5: Bengaluru leave it late to send NorthEast United packing

Bengaluru: Bengaluru – the football club and the city – rose to the occasion yet again, as Carles Cuadrat’s men beat NorthEast United and the odds to make it to the final of the Indian Super League for a second successive season. Talismanic striker Miku made amends for a string of missed chances in the first half, with a goal (72nd), before Dimas Delgado got one for himself to turn the aggregate in the Blues’ favour. (87’). Sunil Chhetri (90+2’) then added one for good measure as Bengaluru ran out 3-0 winners on the night, to progress to the final with a 4-2 aggregate scoreline.

In a bid to accommodate Xisco Hernandez in the midfield behind Miku, Cuadrat pulled Harmanjot Khabra from the middle and drafted him at the right-back position, while Rahul Bheke joined Juanan in the centre of defence, ahead of Albert Serran, who dropped to the bench.

NorthEast United, meanwhile, chose to start with striker Juan Mascia and midfielder Fanai Lalrempuia in place of Bartholomew Ogbeche and Rowllin Borges – both of who picked up hamstring injuries in Guwahati. Eelco Schattorie, however, had to deal with a situation minutes from kick-off after his captain and left-back, Robert Lalthlamuana pulled out with an injury during warm-ups. The Dutchman was left with little choice but to replace Lalthlamuana with former Bengaluru man, Keegan Pereira.

Knowing exactly what’s needed of them, and with a clock to beat, the Blues put the NorthEast defence to the sword without allowing the visitors any room to settle. But it was a half where Bengaluru, and Miku in particular, inexplicably failed to stick the ball in the back of the net, not once, but three times. The Venezuelan striker first headed an in-swinging cross from Nishu Kumar wide, then minutes later fired over after Udanta Singh picked him with the perfect cut-back in the box. But it was the third miss that had the Kanteerava gasp in collective disbelief. In what would have been the goal of the season, Miku magically weaved past five red shirts and found himself with only Pawan Kumar to beat, before shooting tamely and straight at the NorthEast ’keeper.

Bengaluru began the second half with as much urgency, pushing the visitors to concede a flurry of corners. If Miku missed what could have been the goal of the season, a blinding save by Pawan denied Nishu his entry to the contest in the 51st minute. Picking up a clearance from the NorthEast box, Nishu smashed the ball that flew like an arrow towards the goal, only for Pawan to tip it over while in full flight.

With a little more than twenty minutes left on the clock, Cuadrat took his first gamble, pulling off Juanan Gonzalez for Luisma Villa and Bengaluru would find the net only moments later. Bringing down a lob over from Dimas, Xisco played the pass back to Udanta, who swung a cross into the area that Miku met with the deftest of touches. Flicking it with the outside of his right ankle, the Venezuelan sent the ball far past the reach of Pawan and shot Bengaluru into the lead. Earlier, NorthEast United were dealt a blow as Uruguayan striker Federico Gallego was stretchered off after his attempt to block Miku’s shot.

With the scoreline enough to send Bengaluru through to the final, Cuadrat sent on Serran to replace Xisco, adding reinforcements at the back. But the Blues refused to sit back and added another just 15 minutes later through Dimas. Set free on the counter, Udanta turned on his turbos to skip past Keegan and then send a cross that Pawan could only tip onto his bar. With the ball bouncing back into play, Dimas arrived to place his shot past Pawan and double the Blues’ advantage.

With six minutes of time added on, NorthEast looked to score a goal to take the tie into extra time, and the Blues took advantage of the visitors’ high line once again. Chhetri, regaining possession in midfield, played a quick give-and-go with Miku to beat the offside trap and run through on goal. Up against Pawan and with time on his hands, Chhetri feinted once and pushed the ball past the advancing NorthEast custodian, and then slotted home to make it 3-0 on the night and send Bengaluru through to the final.

Bengaluru will face one of Mumbai City FC or FC Goa in the showpiece event, set to take place at the Mumbai Football Arena, on March 17th.

ISL 5: Stage set for a fightback at the Fortress

Stage set for a fightback at the Fortress

Bengaluru FC Confident Of Overturning 2-1 Deficit As NorthEast United Stand Between Cuadrat’s Boys And A Spot In The ISL Final

Bengaluru: In what is now a familiar script, it all comes down to a Monday night at the Fortress where Bengaluru FC have their task cut out against NorthEast United, who stand in the way of the Blues and a second successive appearance in the final of the Indian Super League. A 2-1 defeat away from home means Eelco Schattorie-coached NorthEast United come to the Fortress with an advantage, but it’s one that Carles Cuadrat believes his Blues can negate with the whole city backing them.

The late goal in Guwahati might have given the visitors an edge, but the tie is far from over and comes down to three straight equations. The simplest result the Blues will need to make the final is a 1-0 win, thanks to Xisco Hernandez’s goal away from home. Should the Blues win 2-1, extra time and then penalties – if needed – will decide the game. Finally, should NorthEast United score two goals or more, the Blues will need to win the tie by a two-goal margin to book a ticket to the showpiece event in Mumbai.

“We’re ready for the big game. The mood in the dressing room is good and the feeling all around is that we can give the fans one of those famous nights at the Kanteerava, like we have done in the past. We did it against JDT in the AFC Cup and then against FC Pune City in last year’s semifinal. We believe that with the help of the city, we can deliver another special night that won’t be forgotten soon,” said Cuadrat, while addressing the media on Sunday.

The Blues will bank on their experience of being involved in two-legged knock-out fixtures in the past. Bengaluru famously beat Malaysian side Johor 3-1 at home after drawing 1-1 in the away leg, and became the first Indian side to make the AFC Cup final. Pitted against FC Pune City in the semifinal of the ISL last season, the Blues played out a goalless draw in Pune, before quelling the visitors’ challenge with a 3-1 result at home. Cuadrat will hope that the familiarity of the situation will give his team the confidence needed to get the job done once again.

Bengaluru will also bank on their flawless form at home, where they haven’t lost a game this season. The Kanteerava has been a Fortress in every sense of the term where the Blues have won six games and drawn three in the league stages of the competition. In another encouraging statistic, Bengaluru have always found the back of the net at the Kanteerava this season, and there won’t be a better time than Monday night, to extend that record.

On the possibility of the game going into extra time, Cuadrat said he was confident that his team would pull through if the equation came down to that. “I cannot predict what will unfold tomorrow, but what I certain of is that we will be competitive throughout. If circumstances take the game to extra time, I have a feeling we can get the job done,” he said.

NorthEast suffered a double blow on Thursday when their talismanic striker Bartholomew Ogbeche and influential midfielder Rowllin Borges suffered hamstring injuries in the first leg in Guwahati. Barring a medical miracle, the duo look certain to miss the second leg in Bengaluru. Ogbeche has been NorthEast’s star, scoring twelve times this season, while Borges has commanded the midfield with confidence. Schattorie brought on Juan Mascia and Nikhil Kadam to replace Ogbeche and Borges respectively, and it needs to be seen if the Dutchman chooses to start with them in the reverse fixture.

The game kicks off at 7.30 pm and will be telecast live on the STAR Sports Network, Colors Kannada TV, Hotstar and JioTV.

I-League 2018/19: Gaurav Bora strikes twice to make Chennai City FC’s I-League dream come true

Coimbatore, March 9, 2019: Assam-born 20-year old Delhi lad, Gaurav Bora did the star turn with two second-half goals, as Chennai City FC won their maiden Hero I-League title, beating defending champions Minerva Punjab FC 3-1 in their final game of the 12th Hero I-League at the Nehru stadium in Coimbatore.

Chennai finished with 43 points, one ahead of Quess East Bengal (QEB), who despite winning their final game in Kozhikode against Gokulam Kerala, saw their dreams of the first-ever title triumph fade away in Coimbatore.

Pedro Manzi, their premiere Spanish striker fittingly scored a goal to join Churchill Brother’s Willis Plaza as the joint top scorer of the league with 21 goals apiece, but the day undoubtedly belonged to the young Gaurav Bora, a versatile defender cum midfielder who capped off a brilliant season with a double-strike when it mattered most for his team.

It did not begin perfectly as Minerva took an early lead in the 3rd minute of the game through Ukranian recruit Roland Bilala. It was off a Juan Querro free-kick from the right flank, that he rose to beat his marker and lodge his header into the back of the net.

Chennai kept pressing thereafter and with Nestor Gordillo missing through suspension, it was left to his fellow Spaniard Sandro Rodriguez to fuel all attacks. He along with Slovakian Jozef Kaplan and Romario Jesuraj, both of whom were constantly switching flanks, were constantly trying to create for Manzi.

For Minerva, most of their openings were being created by Querro from the left flank. The diminutive Spaniard finding goal-scorer Roland again in the 40th minute with a wonderful cross, but the Ukranian could not make most of a free-header this time.

Upon commencement of the second half, Chennai continued to get better control of the game. A Sydney Vanspaul effort in the 53rd minute from distance missed the target, but not by much.

Two minutes later, Chennai got the opening they were looking for on a platter. Akashdeep Singh in an effort to clear inadvertently handled the ball inside the box and referee Santhosh Bhaskaran had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Manzi displayed outrageous confidence in pointing the goalkeeper to the spot where he would be placing the ball and did exactly what to bring Chennai firmly back into title reckoning.

The young Gaurav Bora then made a name for a lifetime with two stunning strikes to put the issue beyond anyone’s doubt. Both goals came off corners taken by Sandro from the right flank.

The first in the 69th minute was earned by Sandro himself who then delivered perfectly and Bora coming in on the far post unmarked connected with a crisp volley to put Chennai ahead.

Then if QEB had any hopes remaining of a dying minute Minerva equaliser, Bora put paid them in the 3rd minute of injury time when off another Sandro corner, he came in and rose to head even more crisply to bulge the back of the Minerva net.

It was a fitting attacking and professional end to a brilliant campaign ably steered by Singaporean coach Akbar Nawas and as Bhaskaran blew for full-time there scenes of emotions and joy all around the stadium.

Real Kashmir match against Minerva Punjab rescheduled by AIFF

NEW DELHI: The recommendation of the AIFF League Committee related to the decision of cancellation of the match scheduled between Real Kashmir FC and Minerva Punjab FC on February 18, 2019 in Srinagar was referred to the AIFF Emergency Committee.

Considering the nature of the matter, and in the interest of time it was decided that it would not be possible to convene an Emergency Committee meeting at short notice, and therefore, it would be appropriate that the decision be passed by way of circulation.

The Committee has deliberated on the recommendation of the League Committee, and the provisions of the Hero I-League Regulations 2018-19, and also taken note of the situation prevailing in Kashmir since February 14, 2019.

The Committee firmly believes that football is apolitical and must continue to be a humane expression of conciliation and solidarity with everybody affected by terrorism. The best way to do that is by playing, albeit in a safe and secure environment, allowing the players to express themselves best.

With the current situation in Kashmir not conducive to conduct a match, and keeping in mind the current extraordinary situation as well as the desire of teams to play football on the field, the match stands rescheduled to be held after March 6, 2019, at a time and location feasible for AIFF, and the participating teams.

I-League 2018/19: Juan Quero scores as Minerva Punjab beat Neroca FC in crucial I-League encounter

Spanish midfield maestro Juan Quero was the star for I-League champions Minerva Punjab FC as they beat Neroca FC 1-0 in an important I-league encounter at the Tau Devi Lal stadium in Panchkula today (23/02/19). The victory shot the Warriors to seventh in the league table with three matches remaining in the season.

Coach Sachin Badadhe opted for a strong attacking line-up with Under-18 Elite Youth League star Makan Chothe, Prabhjot Singh, Mahmoud Al Amna and Juan Quero starting in advanced positions. Debutant Kalif Al Hassan anchored the midfield along with Amandeep Singh as Minerva dominated proceedings from the kick-off.

Akash Sangwan had an early chance in the seventh minute of the match when he found space in the left-flank but his cross was too close to the Neroca goalkeeper Lalit Thapa who gathered in with ease.

Minerva came close to scoring twice in the first half. Amandeep Singh had a great chance to open the accounts for the Warriors in the 21st minute after being played in by Amna but his shot narrowly missed the post. Minerva came close once again in the 41st minutes when Amna’s 30-yard shot missed the crossbar by a few inches. Neroca’s closest chance came in the 43rd minute when Subash Singh found his way through an array of Minerva defenders. Unfortunately for the visiting side, he could not find the back of the net. The first half ended goal-less.

The visitors began the second half with much higher intensity as Chencho Gyeltshen, Katsumi Yusa and Aryn Williams all missed chances to take the lead. But Minerva took over the role of bossing after the 15 minutes. The home side almost took the lead when Chothe’s dangerous cross was converted by second-half substitute Moinuddin Khan. But the midfielder was adjudged offside by the linesman. The Warriors did not have to wait long for the all-important goal though. Moinuddin’s great ball control in the left wing allowed him to create space and send in a low cross to Quero, who showed remarkable control to find the back of the net in the 68th minute. Both sides continued to play free-flowing football for the rest of the half but the Minervans held on to their lead to secure all three points.

Minerva’s next match is against East Bengal on March 3rd at the Tau Devi Lal stadium, Panchkula.

Minerva’s Writ to postpone Real Kashmir Fixture heard in New Delhi High Court

Minerva Punjab FC’s Writ to postpone the Real Kashmir Fixture was heard today (22nd February 2019) in the New Delhi High Court.
The Honorable Justice Vibhu Bakhru took cognizance of the fact that the matter had been referred to the league committee and directed the petitioners to seek recourse there with liberty to approach the Court as per law, if aggrieved by their decision.
Minerva Punjab’s timely filing for postponement of the match in Delhi High Court after refusal by AIFF to postpone the match saved them the three points being unfairly awarded to the opposing team. Now it remains to be seen what decision is taken by the AIFF league committee.
The club hopes that the AIFF will take into account the concerns of all parties and reach a just and a fair conclusion which would be in the interest of Indian Football.

ISL 5: Bengaluru bank on might at Fortress as Goa come calling

Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC will look to keep intact their flawless record at home this season when Carles Cuadrat’s side host new league leaders FC Goa at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Thursday. With both teams having sealed a spot in the play-offs, the fixture will play a big role in determining where the two sides finish on the table.

Both Bengaluru and Goa have had a contrasting run of form after the League resumed in January. Sergio Lobera’s men are unbeaten in six games, and for all their prowess in attack, have managed to keep clean sheets in five of those fixtures. Bengaluru FC, meanwhile, in their attempt to rotate the squad and preserve players, have managed just the one win against North East United, while going down to Mumbai, Chennaiyin and Delhi.

But while the Bengaluru boss admitted that his side have been taking away lessons from performances that have been left wanting, managing the squad ahead of the key play-off games has been the priority. “We have achieved our first target of making the play-offs, we now have two more games to manage before the high-intensity games kick in. When we took the lead in Delhi, I had a feeling that we would see the game through. But it wasn’t to be, and that’s football. Interestingly, the last time we took a lead in a game and lost was in the final of the ISL against Chennaiyin.”

The Blues will have their work cut out in defence, coming up against an attack led by league top scorer, Ferran Corominas. The Spaniard has been complimented well by Jackichand Singh, Edu Bedia and Brandon Fernandes as Lobera’s side have gone about dismantling teams with relative ease.

In what will be a definite miss for Bengaluru, defender Albert Serran is serving a suspension after picking up a yellow card – his fourth of the season – in the game against Delhi Dynamos. The boss didn’t hesitate to admit the kind of void Erik Paartalu’s absence will have and said that they were looking for options to bring in as a replacement. The Blues’ hard-tackling Australian midfielder sustained a knee injury while going in for a challenge in the game against Chennaiyin two weeks ago was recently ruled out for the season by Cuadrat. “Erik is a very big miss and his injury reiterates why I am keen on managing minutes and appearances for my players. We do have the option of bringing in a replacement and we will be exercising that,” he added.

On whether he was worried that Miku hasn’t been among the goals since his return from injury, Cuadrat said the striker would need time to get back to the level he is capable of. “Miku is having a pre-season of sorts and it is evident. But we have two more games and roughly fifteen days for him to get completely ready and we are certain he will.”

The game kicks off at 7.30 pm and will be telecast live on the Star Sports network, Hotstar, Colors Kannada TV and Jio TV.

ISL: Bengaluru crash to disappointing defeat to Delhi Dynamos

New Delhi: Bengaluru FC crashed to their third defeat of the season after former Blues’ striker Daniel Lalhlimpuia came off the bench to score two second-half goals as Delhi Dynamos came away 3-2 winners at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in New Delhi, on Sunday. Trailing by a Ulises Davila goal (9’), Carles Cuadrat’s men fought back with goals from Boithang Haokip (20’) and substitute Sunil Chhetri (73’) before Lalhlimpuia made the most of goalkeeping errors from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to fire home a brace (77’, 82’) that included the winner.

However, the Blues, who became the first side this season to seal a play-off berth, continue to lead the table with 31 points, three more than FC Goa who have a game in hand.

Miku had the chance to score what would have been the fastest goal of the season when he was picked out by a cut-back from Udanta Singh on 35 seconds. But the Venezuelan couldn’t hit the ball as cleanly as he would have liked to, scuffing it wide in the process.

Bengaluru would rue the miss when Davila put Delhi into the lead in the 9th minute. Palming away a cross from Nandhakumar, Gurpreet’s effort counted for nothing after the ball fell to Davila who fired home to make it 1-0.

Cuadrat’s men, however, soon found a response and a way back into the game when Haokip chose to mark his first start of the season with a peach of a finish in the 20th minute. With a host of blue shirts in the box, Xisco Hernandez floated a cross that Francisco Dorronsoro pushed away. Haokip adjusted his body well before smashing the ball past the Delhi ’keeper.

Cuadrat’s first change of the game came around the hour mark when he threw in Chhetri for Haokip and the Bengaluru striker scored for the third straight game, poking past Dorronsoro after being put through by Xisco to make it 2-1. The Dynamos defence thought they had held the right line to catch Chhetri off-side, but the Bengaluru man time his run to perfection.

With a little more than fifteen minutes on the clock, Bengaluru looked to have the game in control when two uncharacteristic blunders from Gurpreet handed Delhi the equaliser and then the lead.

Bringing down a cross, Lalhlimpuia fired straight at Sandhu who could only palm the ball into his own net, as Delhi clawed back into the game. Lalhlimpuia would strike once again, this time his shot taking a little off Rahul Bheke before creeping past Sandhu at the near post to make it 3-2 – a lead they would hold on to.

Earlier, Cuadrat started with Haokip for the first time this season, leaving Chhetri on the bench instead. Dimas Delgado, Albert Serran and Udanta Singh – all of who were left out of the game against Chennaiyin FC last week, were handed starts too.

Bengaluru travel back home where they take on FC Goa at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, on Thursday.