Half way through the I-League season, it looked as if it would be an interesting season at both ends of the table, with atleast four teams in the hunt for the title, while almost six teams looked to be battling the drop at the bottom of the table.
Now with three games to go, Churchill Brothers look likely to go away with the title, as their opponents have suffered a remarkable drop in form, with the Red Machines now 4 points ahead of East Bengal, and with a game in hand.
However nothing matches the disappointment at the bottom of the table, where United Sikkim and Air India look likely to go down now, as Mohun Bagan finally rose out of the relegation places, after beating the Airmen 3-2.
The Mariners, though just 3 points above Air India, have two games in hand compared to the bottom two, and considering they are in great form at the moment, it is unlikely they will be dragged back into the mire.
With Pailan Arrows exempt from relegation, the next real candidates are Shillong Lajong, who with a 6 point gap and just two games to go, will consider themselves almost safe.
So what happened to the likes of Salgaocar and Sporting Clube de Goa, who are not only away from the relegation zone, but now in the top half of the table?
The January transfer window happened!
Josimar has helped Salgaocar pull away from the relegation zone...
The likes of the Goan duo and Lajong, after a poor first half of the season, decided to go for a re-shuffle, and brought in three new foreigners each, all of whom have played a big part in pushing the trio up the table.
United Sikkim and Air India meanwhile, though they too bought in reinforcements, could not match the quality that the three teams mentioned above could, and hence are now set to go down, even though the Airmen were in anycase set to be thrown out of the league at the end of the season.
So it makes one wonder, what was the sense of changing the rules for bringing in foreigners during the January window? This suggestion had come in from a select I-League clubs, who were part of the league committee, in order to safeguard their interests.
For what it has done, and though the fans of the clubs who have managed to survive by making a spate of signings would disagree, is that it has spoiled what could have been an exciting finish to the season, with teams fighting for their right to stay up.
And as big a name as a few of these sides are, why should they not be punished for failing to put together a competent squad at the start of the campaign?
What happens now, as we have seen this season is, that a small team like United Sikkim and Air India, if they don’t get it right on the first time, they have no hope for survival, as even if they go for changes, they can’t match a side like Salgaocar, who rubbed it in further last weekend, hammering the Snow Lions 9-0, with new recruits like G. Obatola and Josimar starring.
And hence the league, which with afternoon kick-offs and time wasting theatrics, has already lost some of its sheen, is also having to make do without the excitement of an end of season survival tussle.
In order to spice up the action in the Indian football circuit, it is important that teams are not allowed to take short-cuts to success, and among the many reforms the All India Football Federation (AIFF), needs to enact, a look at the transfer policy is a must.
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