I-League

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Hero I-League
I-League logo.svg
Organising bodyAll India Football Federation (AIFF)
Founded2007; 12 years ago (2007)
1996–2007 (as National Football League)
CountryIndia
ConfederationAFC
Number of teams11
Level on pyramid1
Relegation toI-League 2nd Division
Domestic cup(s)Durand Cup
Super Cup
International cup(s)AFC Cup
Current championsChennai City (1st title)
(2018–19)
Most championshipsDempo (5 titles)
Top goalscorerRanti Martins (214 goals)
TV partnersDSport (live matches)
Jio TV (online streaming)
WebsiteI-League
2019–20 I-League

The I-League, formerly known as National Football League, is one among the two co-existing premier football leagues in India together with Indian Super League. For sponsorship reasons, the league is officially known as the Hero I-League. It is currently contested by 11 clubs across the country. It usually runs for a span of six months from October to March.

The competition was founded in 2007 as the successor to the National Football League (NFL) and competition commenced in November 2007.[1] The league was launched as India's first ever professional football league and with the aim to increase the player pool for India's national team.[1] Unlike the franchise based Indian Super League, the I-League operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the I-League 2nd Division.[1] For the clubs that become I-League champions, they are granted the opportunity to participate in the AFC Cup, Asia's secondary international club competition.

Since the inception of the I-League, a total of seven clubs have been crowned champions. Dempo have won the most titles in league history, being crowned champions three times. Churchill Brothers and former I-League side Bengaluru have won the league twice. Salgaocar, Mohun Bagan, Aizawl, Minerva Punjab, and the current champions, Chennai City have won it once.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

In 1996, the first domestic league was started in India known as the National Football League.[2] The league was started in an effort to introduce professionalism to Indian football.[2] Despite that ambition, that not been achieved to this date. During the National Football League days, the league suffered from poor infrastructure and unprofessionalism from its clubs. One of the clubs in the league, FC Kochin, went defunct in 2002 after it was revealed that the club had not paid salaries since 2000 after running up 2.5 crores in losses a season.[3]

After a decade of decline with the National Football League, the All India Football Federation decided it was time for a change. This resulted in the modern day iteration of the top-tier in India.[4]

Formation[edit]

After the 2006–07 NFL season, it was announced that the National Football League would be relaunched and rebranded as the I-League for the 2007–08 season.[5] The league's first season consisted of eight teams from the previous NFL campaign and two teams from the 2nd Division to form a 10 team league.[5] Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), the title sponsors of the previous NFL, were named as the title sponsors of the I-League before the league kicked off in November 2007.[6] The league also announced a change in their foreign-player restrictions with the new rule being that all the clubs could sign four foreigners – three non-Asian and one which must be Asian.[7] The league also announced that, for the first season, matches will be broadcast on Zee Sports.[8]

The original ten clubs in the I-League's first season were Air India, Churchill Brothers, Dempo, East Bengal, JCT, Mahindra United, Mohun Bagan, Salgaocar, Sporting Goa, and Viva Kerala.

The early seasons (2007–2010)[edit]

The first ever I-League match took place on 24 November 2007 between Dempo and Salgaocar. The match, which took place at the Fatorda Stadium in Margao, ended 3–0 in favour of Dempo with Chidi Edeh scoring the first ever goal in league history in the third minute.[9] After eighteen rounds it was Dempo who came out as the first ever champions in the I-League.[10] Viva Kerala and Salgaocar, however, ended up as the first two teams to ever be relegated from the I-League.[11]

The next season the I-League was expanded from 10 to 12 teams. Mumbai, Chirag United, Mohammedan, and Vasco were all promoted from the I-League 2nd Division to make the expansion possible.[12] This however brought up early concerns over how "national" the I-League was. The 2008–09 season would see eleven of the twelve teams come from three different cities. The previous season saw all ten teams come from four different cities.[12] Bhaichung Bhutia, then captain of the Indian national team, said that it was the federations job to spread the game across the country and that it needed to happen.[12]

Regardless of the early criticism, the I-League went on as scheduled and once the 2008–09 season concluded. it was Churchill Brothers who came out on top.[13] Then, before the 2009–10 season, the league was once again expanded from 12 teams to 14. In order to make this happen Salgaocar, Viva Kerala, Pune, and Shillong Lajong were all promoted from the 2nd Division to the I-League.[14] This helped the I-League retain some criticism about how national the league was as now the league would be played in seven different cities/states: Goa, Kerala, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Punjab, and Shillong.[14]

After the 2009–10 season it was Dempo who came out on top for the second time in I-League history.[10]

Baljit Saini of JCT FC against Dempo SC during I-League 2008-09 at Guru Nanak Stadium Ludhiana.

2010–present[edit]

Fans before Bengaluru FC took on East Bengal

Conflict of parties[edit]

On 9 December 2010 the All India Football Federation signed a 15-year, 700-crore deal with Reliance Industries and International Management Group of the United States.[15] The deal gave IMG-Reliance exclusive commercial rights to sponsorship, advertising, broadcasting, merchandising, video, franchising, and rights to create a new football league.[15] This deal came about after the AIFF ended their 10-year deal with Zee Sports five years early.[16]

Two months later, on 8 February 2011, it was reported that twelve of the fourteen I-League clubs held a private meeting in Mumbai to discuss the ongoing issues related to the league.[17] It was never revealed what was exactly talked about at this meeting.[17] Then, on 22 February, it was announced that the same twelve I-League clubs that attended the meeting would not be signing the AFC–licensing papers needed to play in the I-League.[18] The reasoning for this was because the I-League clubs were not happy over the fact that IMG-Reliance had so far done nothing to promote the I-League and that they demanded the I-League be made a separate entity from both the AIFF and IMG-Reliance.[18] At this time however there were rumours that IMG-Reliance had been planning on revamping the I-League along the same lines as Major League Soccer of the United States for the 2012–13 season.[18]

On 11 March 2012, following the disbanding of two former I-League clubs – JCT and Mahindra United, it was announced that the I-League clubs would be forming their own organization known as the Indian Professional Football Clubs Association (IPFCA) in order to safeguard their interest and promote football in India.[19] Every club, except for HAL and AIFF–owned Pailan Arrows, joined the newly formed organization.[19] Soon after, it was announced that there would be a meeting held between the AIFF, IMG-Reliance, and the IPFCA on 20 April 2012. In this meeting, IMG-Reliance would present their plan on how they would grow the I-League but the meeting never occurred for reasons unknown.[20]

Then, on 4 May 2012, the AIFF hosted the last ad hoc meeting – an annual meeting between the AFC and AIFF to assess the growth of Indian football. The AFC president at the time, Zhang Jilong, was also in attendance at this meeting.[21] It was reported that the IPFCA would use this meeting to voice their displeasure at the AIFF and IMG-Reliance but the association never showed up at the meeting.[21]

On 18 June 2012 the IPFCA was officially sanctioned under the Society's Act of 1960.[22]

League improvement[edit]

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu underwent trials at then Premier League side Wigan Athletic and finally signing for Stabæk Fotball in 2014.
Sunil Chhetri and Gouramangi Singh Indian highest paid footballer in I-League with a rumoured of Rs 1.2 Cr or Rs 1.05 Cr)
Enrique Esqueda, highest paid footballer in I-League with Rs 4.2 Cr

Despite the ongoing war between the AIFF, IMG-Reliance, and the IPFCA, the league did manage to improve its product on the field and awareness did increase during this period. It all started when the India national team participated in the AFC Asian Cup in 2011 for the first time in 27 years.[23] Despite being knocked-out in the group stage after losing all three of their games, India came back home more popular than ever. Subrata Pal, of Pune gained the most popularity after his impressive performances in goal for India during the Asian Cup.[24] At the same time, before the Asian Cup, Sunil Chhetri became the second Indian footballer in the modern footballing era to move abroad when he signed for the Kansas City Wizards in Major League Soccer in 2010. He also became the first exported Indian from the I-League.[25]

The league was then given a major boost from its main derby, the Kolkata derby, between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. On 20 November 2011, 90,000 people watched at the Salt Lake Stadium as Mohun Bagan defeated East Bengal 1–0.[26] The league also saw more expansion to others areas with the promotion of United Sikkim from the 2nd Division,[27] however, their reign was short lived as financial troubles saw them relegated the next season.[28]

Meanwhile, while the league continued to grow, so did the players' demand. During this period plenty of Indian players were wanted on trial by foreign clubs, mainly in Europe. After his return from MLS, Sunil Chhetri and international teammate Jeje Lalpekhlua were called for trials at Scottish Premier League side Rangers in 2011.[29] Subrata Pal had trials at RB Leipzig before finally signing for Vestsjælland in 2014.[30] And Gurpreet Singh Sandhu underwent trials at then Premier League side Wigan Athletic and finally signing for Stabæk Fotball, Norway in 2014.[31]

At the same time, as Indian players demand abroad increased, the demand for higher quality foreigners in the I-League also increased. Former A-League player of the year and Costa Rican international Carlos Hernández signed with Prayag United before the 2012–13 season from the Melbourne Victory.[32] Lebanese international Bilal Najjarine also signed with Churchill Brothers in 2012.[33] Former A-League player of the year and New land international Leo Bertos signed with East Bangal before the 2010 FIFA world cup player. East Bengal FC roped in Costa Rica national team centre-back Johnny Acosta East Bengal ropes in Costa Rican World Cupper Johnny Acosta Zamora - who played all 3 games in the 2018 FIFA World Cup for a rumored fee of Rs. 1.4 Cr.
On 18 August, East Bengal FC announced former Real madrid B manager Alejandro Menéndez García as the new coach.Alejandro Menendez's appointment marks the beginning of new era in East Bengal On 24 August, East Bengal FC announced the signing of former Granada C.F. centreback Borja Gómez Pérez. East Bengal sign Spanish defender Borja Gomez Perez On 30 August, East Bengal FC signed former Mexico international Enrique Esqueda on a free transfer, however making him the highest paid footballer in I-League with a rumoured of Rs 4.2 Cr.

AFC Award[edit]

Developing League Silver

Champions[edit]

Successful clubs by seasons[edit]

Season Champions Runners-up Third place
2007–08 Dempo (3) Churchill Brothers JCT
2008–09 Churchill Brothers (1) Mohun Bagan Sporting Goa
2009–10 Dempo (4) Churchill Brothers Pune
2010–11 Salgaocar (2) East Bengal Dempo
2011–12 Dempo (5) East Bengal Churchill Brothers
2012–13 Churchill Brothers (2) Pune East Bengal
2013–14 Bengaluru (1) East Bengal Salgaocar
2014–15 Mohun Bagan (4) Bengaluru Royal Wahingdoh
2015–16 Bengaluru (2) Mohun Bagan East Bengal
2016–17 Aizawl (1) Mohun Bagan East Bengal
2017–18 Minerva Punjab (1) NEROCA Mohun Bagan
2018-19 Chennai City (1) East Bengal Real Kashmir

Performance by clubs[edit]

Club Titles Runners-up Third place Winning seasons Runners-up seasons Third place seasons
Dempo 3 0 1 2007-08,2009–10,2011–12 2010-11
Churchill Brothers 2 2 1 2008-09, 2012–13 2007-08, 2009–10 2011-12
Bengaluru 2 1 0 2013-14, 2015–16 2014-15
Mohun Bagan 1 3 1 2014-15 2008-09, 2015–16, 2016–17 2017-18
Salgaocar 1 0 1 2010-11 2013-14
Aizawl 1 0 0 2016-17
Punjab 1 0 0 2017-18
Chennai City 1 0 0 2018-19
East Bengal 0 4 3 2010-11, 2011–12, 2013–14,

2018-19

2012-13, 2015–16, 2016–17
Pune 0 1 1 2012-13 2009-10
NEROCA 0 1 0 2017-18
JCT 0 0 1 2007-08
Sporting Goa 0 0 1 2008-09
Royal Wahingdoh 0 0 1 2014-15
Real Kashmir 0 0 1 2018-19
  • Bold Plays in current I league season.

All-time table[edit]

The following is a list of clubs who have played in the I-League at any time since its formation in 2007 to the current season. Teams playing in the 2019–20 I-League season are indicated in bold. Defunct teams are indicated in italic. A total of 32 teams have played in the I-League. The table is accurate as of the start of the 2019–20 season.

Pos. Team S P W D L F A D Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 1st App Since/Last App Highest finish
1 East Bengal 12 260 120 70 70 402 264 138 430 0 4 3 2 2007–08 2007–08 2nd
2 Mohun Bagan 12 260 114 82 64 395 288 107 424 1 3 1 2 2007–08 2007–08 1st
3 Churchill Brothers 10 224 104 62 58 404 275 129 374 2 2 1 2 2007–08 2016–17 1st
4 Dempo 8 188 90 52 46 337 209 128 322 3 0 1 2 2007–08 2014–15 1st
5 Salgaocar 8 182 70 46 66 258 229 29 256 1 0 1 0 2007–08 2015–16 1st
6 Sporting Goa 8 178 62 57 59 241 249 -8 243 0 0 1 1 2007–08 2015–16 3rd
7 Pune 6 148 63 45 40 219 168 51 234 0 1 1 0 2009–10 2014–15 2nd
8 Mumbai 9 204 53 72 79 219 281 -62 231 0 0 0 0 2008–09 2016–17 5th
9 Shillong Lajong 9 194 53 56 85 220 316 -96 215 0 0 0 0 2009–10 2018–19 5th
10 United SC 6 150 48 55 47 202 200 2 199 0 0 0 1 2008–09 2013–14 4th
11 Bengaluru FC 4 78 42 20 16 131 79 52 146 2 1 0 1 2013–14 2016–17 1st
12 Air India 6 144 33 45 66 142 249 -107 144 0 0 0 0 2007–08 2012–13 8th
13 JCT 4 92 29 27 36 93 100 -7 114 0 0 1 0 2007–08 2010–11 3rd
14 Indian Arrows 5 116 25 29 62 105 186 -81 104 0 0 0 0 2010–11 2017–18 8th
15 Aizawl 4 72 27 20 25 87 81 6 101 1 0 0 0 2015–16 2015–16 1st
16 Mahindra United 3 66 25 25 16 97 69 28 100 0 0 0 1 2007–08 2009–10 4th
17 Chirag United Club Kerala 4 96 22 23 51 96 160 -64 89 0 0 0 0 2007–08 2011–12 9th
18 Chennai City 3 56 21 16 19 78 81 -3 79 1 0 0 0 2016–17 2016–17 1st
19 Punjab 3 56 17 15 24 51 68 -17 66 1 0 0 0 2016–17 2016–17 1st
20 NEROCA 2 38 16 10 12 47 39 8 58 0 1 0 0 2017–18 2017–18 2nd
21 ONGC 2 52 12 19 21 55 76 -21 55 0 0 0 0 2010–11 2012–13 9th
22 Mohammedan 2 46 11 13 22 44 66 -22 46 0 0 0 0 2008–09 2013–14 11th
23 Gokulam Kerala 2 38 9 11 18 42 56 -14 38 0 0 0 0 2017–18 2017–18 7th
24 Real Kashmir 1 20 10 7 3 25 14 11 37 0 0 1 0 2018–19 2018–19 3rd
25 DSK Shivajians 2 34 7 12 15 38 55 -17 33 0 0 0 0 2015–16 2016–17 7th
26 HAL 2 52 7 11 34 37 108 -71 32 0 0 0 0 2010–11 2011–12 12th
27 Royal Wahingdoh 1 20 8 6 6 27 27 0 30 0 0 1 0 2014–15 2014–15 3rd
28 Rangdajied United 1 24 6 7 11 29 38 -9 25 0 0 0 0 2013–14 2013–14 11th
29 Bharat FC 1 20 4 6 10 13 28 -15 18 0 0 0 0 2014–15 2014–15 11th
30 United Sikkim 1 26 2 9 15 23 63 -40 15 0 0 0 0 2012–13 2012–13 14th
31 Vasco SC 1 22 2 4 16 14 49 -35 10 0 0 0 0 2008–09 2008–09 12th
32 TRAU 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2019–20 2019–20 n/a
2019–20 I-League
I-League 2nd Division
State Leagues
Indian Super League
Clubs that no longer exist

Rivalries[edit]

There are several key rivalries and local derbies that have formed in the I-League, including:

"Kolkata Derby"

"Goa Derby"

"Northeast Derby"

"South Indian Derby"

"Manipur Derby"

Competition format[edit]

Competition[edit]

Since the league began in 2007 the rules of the league have changed almost yearly. Currently, the league has 11 teams. Each club played each other twice during the season, once at home and the other away from home. The team that wins a match receives three points while both teams earn point if they draw. A loser is not awarded any points. At the end of the season, the team with the most points wins the league. In the case of a tie then head to head record is looked upon. further, in the case of a tie, the goal difference is looked upon of the tied teams.[34]

AFC qualification[edit]

Clubs from the I-League primarily participate internationally in the AFC Cup, however, some I-League clubs have had the chance to qualify for the AFC Champions League. From 2007 to 2011 the champions of the previous season of the I-League were allowed to play in a qualifier for the Champions League.[35] Then from 2011 to 2013 no I-League club played in a qualifier till Pune in 2014 after the club passed the AFC Licensing Criteria.[36] However, to this day, no I-League club has actually qualified for the AFC Champions League group stage.

Sponsorship[edit]

Since the original National Football League, the Indian league has always been sponsored. When the I-League began in 2007 the last sponsor from the old National Football League, ONGC, where brought in as the sponsors, making the league be known as the ONGC I-League.[37] However, after the 2010–11 season, the deal with ONGC was not renewed and the I-League was left without a sponsorship deal till 2013.[38] On 24 September 2013, it was announced that telecommunications company, Airtel would be the new title sponsor of the I-League, thus making the league known as the Airtel I-League.[39] In December 2014, it was announced that Hero MotoCorp would replace Airtel as the title sponsor for the league and hence the league would be known has Hero I-League.[40]

Period Sponsor Industry Tournament
2007–11 India ONGC Petroleum Industry ONGC I-League
2011–13 none N/A I-League
2013–14 India Airtel Telecommunications Airtel I-League
2014–present India Hero Automotive Industry Hero I-League

Media coverage[edit]

Since 2007 the I-League has managed to find a way to be telecast, which is drastic in increasing the profile and popularity of the league. Before the inaugural 2007–08 season the All India Football Federation reached a deal with Zee Sports to broadcast 45 of the 90 matches that season with TEN Sports broadcasting 15 matches in the inaugural season.[41] The deal with Zee Sports was a continuation of the 10-year deal reached between the AIFF and Zee Sports in 2005.[42] However, in October 2009, Zee Sports reportedly sent a letter to the AIFF asking for the Federation to review the 10-year contract after concerns were raised by the broadcaster that the league was not attracting as many sponsors as they would have liked.[42] In August 2010 it was revealed that there were crunch talks between the AIFF and Zee Sports over these concerns and that there was a provision in the 10-year deal that said it could be reviewed after the first five years.[43]. All India Football Federation (AIFF) has signed a three-year deal with Lex Sportel Vision Pvt. Ltd. to broadcast the I-League on DSport starting 2019-20 season. The 13th edition of I-League is scheduled to commence from November 30, featuring 11 teams and 110 matches.Separately, AIFF has commissioned Instat Limited – an Ireland based company to produce feed of the live audio-visual coverage for the broadcast on DSport. Instat will produce all games with an 8-camera setup. AIFF’s agreement with Instat Limited will run for three years.I-League for past two seasons was showcased on Star Sports. However, as per the request of the I-League clubs, the AIFF & FSDL (Football Sports Development Limited) negotiated the deal with the new broadcast partner providing exclusive rights for on-air and digital content. FSDL will also contribute partly to the cost of production, also there is possibility of Instat Limited offering VAR system in I-League

Period TV Telecast Online Streaming
2007–10 Zee Sports
2010–17 Ten Action, Ten Sports DittoTV
2017–19 Star Sports 2 & Star Sports 3 Hotstar, Jio TV
2019–Present DSport

Criticisms[edit]

Financial situation[edit]

One of the major criticisms of the I-League has been the league's continuing financial instability.[44] Since the league began in 2007 the league has seen four clubs disband their operations – Chirag United Kerala, JCT, Mahindra United, and Pailan Arrows.[45][46] When JCT disbanded, head of operations, Samir Thapar stated that the lack of any credible exposure and money as a major reason for JCT disbanding.[44] The majority of clubs in the league rely on main sponsors the fund the team through a season at least. This is mainly due to the fact that clubs in the I-League do not rely on income from merchandise sales or ticket sales and that television revenue goes directly to the All India Football Federation instead of the clubs.[44]

Currently, attendance in the I-League is suffering as the 2013–14 season only averaged 5,618 per game.[47] Mohun Bagan averaged the most spectators that season with an average of 17,068 while Shillong Lajong ended up being the only other I-League club to finish with an average attendance over 10,000 when the finished at 11,308 per game.[47] Part of the reason for these attendances other than the lack of marketing has been cited as being the fact that most I-League matches start in the afternoon, when it is uncomfortably hot for fans, rather than during the cooler evenings.[48]

Institutional football[edit]

Most football clubs in India are what are termed Institutional teams, in other words controlled or owned by an industrial business.[49] That means it is difficult for players or coaches to turn into complete professionals.[49] The players who play for institutional teams would also work on a full-time job outside the game for his company the team was sponsored by.[49] This is much the same model which was found in Japan before the introduction of the J. League.[50] The positives are that the teams are usually well resourced with players earning decent money and the reassuring prospect of employment after their footballing days finish.[49] On the negative side, teams only effectively represent an individual business with a few thousand workers, rather than whole cities, and thus do not gain broad general support.[49]

On 21 February 2014 it was officially announced that the two remaining institutional clubs in the I-League – Air India and ONGC – had been expelled from the I-League and that all other institutional clubs would not be allowed to participate in the league.[51]

Clubs[edit]

Stadiums and locations[edit]

Team City/State Stadium Capacity
Aizawl Aizawl, Mizoram Rajiv Gandhi Stadium 20,000
Chennai City Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium 30,000
Churchill Brothers Margao, Goa Fatorda Stadium 20,000
Quess East Bengal Kolkata, West Bengal Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan 85,000
Gokulam Kerala Kozhikode, Kerala Kozhikode EMS Stadium 80,000
Indian Arrows Vasco da Gama, Goa
Bhubaneshwar, Odisha
Tilak Maidan Stadium
Kalinga Stadium
5,000
15,000
Mohun Bagan Kalyani, West Bengal Kalyani Stadium 20,000
NEROCA Imphal, Manipur Khuman Lampak Main Stadium 35,000
Punjab Ludhiana, Punjab Guru Nanak Stadium 15,000
Real Kashmir Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir TRC Turf Ground 15,000
TRAU Imphal, Manipur Khuman Lampak Main Stadium 35,000

Stadiums[edit]

Aizawl Chennai City Churchill Brothers East Bengal Gokulam Kerala
Rajiv Gandhi Stadium Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Fatorda Stadium Salt Lake Stadium Kozhikode EMS Stadium
Capacity: 25,415 Capacity: 30,000 Capacity: 20,000 Capacity: 85,000 Capacity: 80,000
Rajiv Gandhi Stadium.jpg Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, coimbatore.jpg Fatorda Stadium, Goa.jpg Kalyani Stadium 10.JPG Kozhikode EMS Stadium.jpg
Indian Arrows Punjab Mohun Bagan NEROCA
Tilak Maidan Stadium Kalinga Stadium Guru Nanak Stadium Kalyani Stadium Khuman Lampak Main Stadium
Capacity: 5,000 Capacity: 15,000 Capacity: 15,000 Capacity: 20,000 Capacity: 35,000
Tilak Maidan Stadium.jpg Aerial view of Kalinga Stadium (Night).jpg Kalyani Stadium 10.JPG Khuman Lampak Main Stadium.jpg
TRAU Real Kashmir
Khuman Lampak Main Stadium TRC Turf Ground
Capacity: 35,000 Capacity: 15,000
Khuman Lampak Main Stadium.jpg

Current clubs[edit]

Club Name Owners Home stadium Capacity Seasons in IL Best finish Worst finish Spell in level 1
Aizawl Robert Romawia Royte Rajiv Gandhi Stadium 25,415 2012 to present 1st, 2016-17 8th, 2015-16 from 2015
Chennai City Rohit Ramesh and Family 69%, R Krishnakumar (5%) & FC Basel (26%) Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium 45,000 2016 to present 1st, 2018-19 8th, 2016-17,2017-18 from 2016
Churchill Brothers Churchill Alemao Fatorda Stadium 20,000 2007 to 2014; 2016 to present 1st, 2008-09,2012-13 8th, 2013-14 from 2016
East Bengal Quess Corp (70%), East Bengal Pvt Ltd. (30%) Salt Lake Stadium 85,000 2007 to present 2nd, 2010-11,2011-12,2013-14,2018-19 9th, 2009-10 from 2007
Gokulam Kerala Sree Gokulam Group Kozhikode EMS Stadium 80,000 2017 to present 7th, 2017-18 9th, 2018-19 from 2017
Indian Arrows AIFF Tilak Maidan Stadium
Kalinga Stadium
5,000
15,000
2010 to 2013,2017 to present 8th, 2011-12 13th, 2017-18 from 2017
Punjab F.C. Ranjit Bajaj (50%)

RoundGlass Sports (50%)

Guru Nanak Stadium 15,000 2015 to present 1st, 2017-18 9th, 2016-17,2018-19 from 2016
Mohun Bagan Mohun Bagan Football Club (India) Pvt. Ltd. Kalyani Stadium 20,000 2007 to present 1st, 2014-15 10th, 2012-13 from 2007
NEROCA NEROCA Football Club Pvt. Ltd. Khuman Lampak Main Stadium 45,000 2015 to present 2nd, 2017-18 6th, 2018-19 from 2017
Real Kashmir Shamim Mehraj and Sandeep Chattoo TRC Turf Ground 15,000 2018 to present 3rd, 2018-19 3rd, 2018-19 from 2018
TRAU TRAU Football Club Pvt. Ltd. Khuman Lampak Main Stadium 45,000 2017 to present TBD, 2019-20 TBD, 2019-20 from 2019

Former clubs[edit]

Club Seasons in I-league Best finish Worst finish Current league
Shillong Lajong 2009 to 2019 5th, 2016–17 14th, 2009–10 I-League 2nd Division
Mohammedan 2008 to 2009,2013 to 2014 11th, 2008–09 13th, 2013–14 I-League 2nd Division
Dempo 2007 to 2015 1st, 2007-08,2009-10, 2011-12 10th, 2014-15 Goa Professional League
Salgaocar 2007 to 2008, 2009 to 2016 1st, 2010–11 10th, 2007–08 Goa Professional League
Bengaluru FC 2013 to 2017 1st, 2013-14, 2015-16 4th, 2016-17 Indian Super League
United 2008 to 2014 4th, 2012–13 10th, 2012–14 Calcutta Premier Division B
Sporting Clube de Goa 2007 to 2010, 2011 to 2016 3rd, 2008–09 13th, 2009–10 Goa Professional League
Pune 2009 to 2015 2nd, 2012–13 7th, 2013–14 PDFA Super Division
Royal Wahingdoh 2014 to 2015 3rd, 2014–15 3rd, 2014–15 Shillong Premier League
Air India 2007 to 2013 8th, 2007–08 13th, 2012–13 Mumbai Football League
Rangdajied United 2013 to 2014 10th, 2013–14 10th, 2013–14 Shillong Premier League
Vasco 2008 to 2009 12th, 2008–09 12th, 2008–09 Goa Professional League
DSK Shivajians 2015 to 2017 7th, 2016–17 9th, 2015–16 Pune Football League
ONGC 2010 to 2011, 2012 to 2013 9th, 2012–13 14th, 2010–11 Mumbai Football League
JCT 2007 to 2011 3rd, 2007–08 13th, 2010–11
HAL 2010 to 2012 12th, 2010–11 14th, 2011–12 Bangalore Super Division
United Sikkim 2012 to 2013 14th, 2012–13 14th, 2012–13 Defunct
Mumbai 2007 to 2017 5th, 2015–16 11th, 2009–10, 2012-12 Defunct
Mahindra United 2007 to 2010 4th, 2009–10 5th,2007–08, 2008–09 Defunct
Viva Kerala 2007 to 2008 ,2009 to 2012 9th, 2008–09 12th,2011–12 Defunct
Bharat 2014 to 2015 11th, 2014–15 11th,2014–15 Defunct

Head coaches[edit]

The role of the head coach in the I-League varies from club to club. Some clubs in the I-League like to appoint technical directors as well as head coaches and the technical directors for the most part are given the power the select the squad and sometimes the entire team management.[52] The All India Football Federation does impose licensing requirements for head coaches in the I-League, the rule being that the head coach must have an AFC A-License in order to coach in the I-League, however, some clubs and coaches like Subhash Bhowmick, Subrata Bhattacharya, Sukhwinder Singh, and Bimal Ghosh are known for accepting a technical directors role in order to bypass the head coaching requirements without an A-License.[52] This has bought about a lot of controversial news in the I-League, most recently being when Churchill Brothers won the I-League after the 2012–13 season with Subhash Bhowmick running the entire team on and off the field but not winning the "Coach of the Year" award due to being listed as the technical director and not the head coach.[52]

Seeing this, the AIFF technical director, Rob Baan, as well as others, advocated that the federation make it mandatory for both technical directors and head coaches to have an AFC A-License.[52] On 14 May 2014 this was officially put into act by the AIFF during their I-League licensing committee meeting.[53]

In terms of coaching performance, after the first seven seasons of the I-League, an Indian head coach has won the I-League four times while a foreign head coach has won it three times. Zoran Đorđević of Serbia was the first ever foreign head coach to win the I-League[54] while the second coach was Karim Bencherifa of Morocco.[55] Englishman Ashley Westwood was the most recent foreign coach to win the I-League in the 2014–15 season.[56]

Armando Colaco was the first Indian coach to win the I-League in the league's opening season and he has the most I-League championships at three.[57] Mariano Dias and Khalid Jamil the only other Indian coach to win the I-League.[58]

The current head coaches in the I-League are:

Current head coaches
Nat. Name Club Appointed Time in charge
Scotland David Robertson Real Kashmir 2 January 2017 2 years, 344 days
Singapore Akbar Nawas Chennai City 19 March 2018 1 year, 268 days
India Floyd Pinto Indian Arrows 24 July 2018 1 year, 141 days
Spain Alejandro Menéndez East Bengal FC 20 August 2018 1 year, 114 days
India Stanley Rozario Aizawl 9 January 2019 337 days
Spain Kibu Vicuña Mohun Bagan 10 May 2019 216 days
Spain Fernando Andres Santiago Valera Gokulam Kerala FC 1 June 2019 194 days
India Gift Raikhan NEROCA 1 June 2019 194 days
India Chun Yan Law Punjab F.C. 19 July 2019 146 days
Brazil Douglas Silva TRAU 23 October 2019 51 days
Portugal Bernardo Tavares Churchill Brothers 28 November 2019 14 days
The torso and head of a grey-haired white man in a football stadium. He is wearing spectacles and a black coat.
Former Dempo manager Armando Colaco was the longest serving and most successful manager in the history of the I League.
Winning head coaches
Head coach Club Wins Winning years
India Armando Colaco Dempo 3 2007-08, 2009–10, 2011–12
England Ashley Westwood Bengaluru 2 2013-14, 2015–16
India Khalid Jamil Aizawl 1 2016-17
India Sanjoy Sen Mohun Bagan 2014-15
Singapore Akbar Nawas Chennai City 2018-19
India Khogen Singh Minerva Punjab 2017-18
India Mariano Dias Churchill Brother 2012-13
Serbia Zoran Đorđević Churchill Brother 2008-09
Morocco Karim Bencherifa Salgaocar 2010-11

Individual game highest attendance records[edit]

Rank Home team Score Away team Attendance Stadium Date
1 Mohun Bagan 1–0 East Bengal 90,000 Salt Lake Stadium November 20, 2011
2 Mohun Bagan 0–1 East Bengal 80,000 Salt Lake Stadium November 24, 2013
3 Mohun Bagan 1–1 East Bengal 63,342 Salt Lake Stadium January 26, 2016
4 Mohun Bagan 1–0 East Bengal 57,780 Salt Lake Stadium March 28, 2015

Stats and players[edit]

Seasonal statistics[edit]

Sunil Chhetri, the only Indian to win the overall golden boot.
Season Total Goals Matches played Average per Game
2007–08 226 90 2.51[59]
2008–09 318 132 2.41[60]
2009–10 486 182 2.67[61]
2010–11 489 182 2.69[62]
2011–12 521 182 2.88[63]
2012–13 530 182 2.91[64]
2013–14 402 156 2.47[65]
2014–15 280 110 2.55[66]
2015–16 186 72 2.58[67]
2016–17 225 90 2.5[68]
2017–18 204 90 2.27[69]
2018–19 303 109 2.78

Top scorers[edit]

Season after season, players in the I-League compete for the golden boot title, which is awarded at the end of each season to the top scorer throughout the entire season. The most recent winners of the golden boot are Sunil Chhetri, Darryl Duffy, and Cornell Glenn, who all won the golden boot at the end of the 2013–14 season after scoring 14 goals each. Odafe Onyeka Okolie and Ranti Martins are both currently the holders of the most golden boot titles with three and four each. The two Nigerians make up the seven golden boots won by Nigerians, the most of any nationality in the league.

Awards[edit]

The trophy[edit]

The I-League has only been awarding a proper trophy to the champion since 2013 when the 2012–13 season champions, Churchill Brothers, won the league.[75] Before 2013 the I-League champions received a basic trophy.[75] The new trophy was designed in Europe and is modeled along the lines of the champion trophies in the top European leagues.[75] Regarding the trophy, the AIFF general secretary, Kushal Das, said "It is the endeavour of AIFF to practice the best principles of other leagues and accordingly we thought to create a more contemporary look to the I-League trophy in line with trophies given in European leagues".[75]

Player and coach awards[edit]

End of season I-League awards are currently conducted by the Football Players' Association of India since 2009. The awards include best head coach, best foreign player, best Indian player, best young player, and the fans player of the year. The AIFF give out the best referee award.

Prizes[edit]

Prize money[edit]

As updated on 28 February 2018.

Purse
Champions 1 crore
1st Runners-up 60 Lakhs
2nd Runners-up 40 Lakhs
Fourth 25 Lakhs
Matchday Subsidy 1 Lakh
Match winner 50 Thousand
Hero of the Match 25 Thousand

I-League clubs in Asia[edit]

Traditionally, I-League clubs have done particularly well in the AFC Cup. In 2008 Dempo managed to reach the semi-finals of the AFC Cup before being defeated by Al-Safa of Lebanon.[87] East Bengal also managed to reach the semi-finals in 2013 before being knocked-out by Kuwait SC.[88] Bengaluru FC have recently made it to the AFC Final.[89]

In the AFC Champions League however, no I-League club has ever managed to make it past the qualifiers.[90]

Season AFC Cup Position AFC Champions League Position
2008–09 Mohun Bagan 4th in Group Stage Dempo Qualifiers
Dempo Semi-Final
2009–10 East Bengal 4th in Group Stage Churchill Brothers Qualifiers
Churchill Brothers Round of 16
2010–11 East Bengal 4th in Group Stage Dempo Qualifiers
Dempo Round of 16
2011–12 East Bengal 4th in Group Stage Salgaocar DNP
Salgaocar 4th in Group Stage
2012–13 East Bengal Semi-Final Churchill Brothers DNP
Churchill Brothers 3rd in Group Stag
2013–14 Churchill Brothers Round of 16 Pune Qualifiers
Pune 4th in Group Stage
2014–15 Bengaluru FC Round of 16 Bengaluru FC Preliminary Round 1
East Bengal 3rd in Group Stage
2015–16 Mohun Bagan Round of 16 Mohun Bagan Preliminary Round 2
Bengaluru FC Runner-up
2016–17 Bengaluru FC Interzonal finals Bengaluru FC Preliminary Round 2
Mohun Bagan Group stage
2017–18 Aizawl 4th in Group Stage Aizawl Play-off round
Bengaluru FC Interzonal semifinals
2018–19 Minerva Punjab 3rd in Group Stage Minerva Punjab Preliminary Round 2
2019–20 Chennai City TBD Chennai City TBD

Current broadcasters[edit]

Territory Network
 India DSport
International Sport24 (in-flight and ship only)
YouTube (unsold markets only)
 Afghanistan DSport
 Bangladesh
 Bhutan
   Nepal
 Pakistan
 Sri Lanka
 Maldives Television Maldives
 Albania SuperSport Albania
 Kosovo
 Brunei beIN Sports
 Cambodia
 Hong Kong
 Indonesia
 Laos
 Malaysia
 Philippines
 Singapore
 Thailand
 East Timor
 Estonia Viasat Sport Baltic
 Latvia
 Lithuania
 France SFR Sport
 Luxembourg
 Monaco
 Belgium Eurosport 1
Eurosport 2
 Bosnia and Herzegovina
 Croatia
 North Macedonia
 Montenegro
 Slovenia
 Serbia
 Bulgaria
 Romania
 Hungary
 Finland
 Norway
 Sweden
 Moldova
 Armenia
 Ukraine
 Iceland
 Turkey
 Georgia
 Azerbaijan
 Kazakhstan
 Kyrgyzstan
 Tajikistan
 Turkmenistan
 Uzbekistan
 Macao Macau Cable
 Myanmar Sky Net
 Netherlands ESPN+
 Portugal Sport TV
 Russia Match TV
 United States ESPN+
 Vietnam SCTV

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]