Indian Super League vs I-League: What’s the difference?

We are witnessing history for sure. Beyond any doubt, Indian Super League represents the birth of a Footballing nation. As the country hooks into yet another glamorous league, the question that remains is, what will happen India’s top tier football league, the I-League and the clubs affiliated to it?

So, what exactly is I-League?

Long before we know Ronaldo and Messi as the icons of this sport, we had a complete league system in place in India. The top of the league structure is the ‘airtel’ I-League, formerly in its most popular avatar as the ‘ONGC I-League’. It is the Indian version of the British’ Barclays Premier League or Spanish La Liga. It adopts the same structure as them, with multiple tiers called as divisions.

ISL vs I-League

Basically, those two cannot be compared at all. To put in a cricket perspective, ISL is the 2-month glitzy festival like the IPL, while I-League is bigger and longer Ranji Trophy. The only difference is I-League teams are again franchisees unlike the Ranji trophy teams that represent state cricket associations.

Player Selection

The I-League teams (except a few top-tier teams) are mostly composed of local talent of where the club is situated and based on their financial stability, they could get even foreign player to play for them. Wherein ISL, the players are given to different teams via a draft system (similar to how we take teams in Gully cricket), except two teams (more on that coming).

Why not I-League teams in ISL?

ISL is all about popularizing the sport in the country and that needs a lot of money. You need to get big names into the team, pay them, give world class training facilities and all these comes at a cost. But most I-League teams have not yet broke-even (again, except some top-tier clubs). It would not be commercially viable for them to be a part of the ISL. But – two I-League teams are actually part of the Indian Super League. FC Goa is owned by Dempo FC and NorthEast United FC is owned by Shillong Lajong FC. The domestic players for these teams are taken from their respective I-League teams rather than the player draft.

Why not Bangalore?

Initially, there was a team for Bangalore in the ISL, which even participated in the domestic player draft. But due to unspecified reasons, the team pulled back and Chennai was roped in to fill the spot, with the players selected by the Bangalore team moving to Chennai forming the Chennaiyin FC. Interestingly, the I-League team Bangalore FC is the current champions of India’s top tier football.

ISL – Good or Bad for I-League?

The most part of India, doesn’t know what football is all about. ISL is about to change that. And that change will definitely have a positive result on the I-League as well.

So, C’mon India, Let’s Football..

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