In an encouraging bit of news for the supporters of the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL), a brainchild of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and its marketing partners IMG-Reliance, the organizers have successfully enticed five I-League clubs to release star players for the duration of the tournament.
It must be remembered that as much as year ago the I-League Professional Football Clubs Association (IPFCA), a bevy of I-League clubs who had initially refused to loan out any of their players to the tournament fearing the popularity of the I-League may be affected, waged a bitter war with the organizers and promoters, IMG-Reliance.
This resulted in a huge logistical blow, forcing the tournament to be rescheduled to the next year.
A year’s passing seems to have tempered the hatred and now, some of the clubs are more than willing to participate.
It has been reported that the like of Dempo SC and Shillong Lajong FC will automatically feed the tournament with players, being owners and proprietors of ISL clubs themselves. Shrinivas Dempo is owner of the Goan franchise, while Shillong Lajong have entered into alliance with North East United FC from Guwahati.
Whilst the above clubs have successfully agreed to release fourteen players from their side for the tournament, the other clubs who have agreed to the agenda are Kolkata behemoths Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, as well as Mumbai FC.
The likes of Jeje Lalpekhlua, Lalkamal Bhowmick, Shilton Paul and Dhanachandra Singh have all accepted a pay structure for five months and now will be seen strutting in the ISL.
Meanwhile, though the green seems to have rubbed off on a few of the clubs, others such as I-League conquerors Bengaluru FC, Salgaocar FC, Sporting Clube de Goa and Pune FC have all abstained from releasing their players.
The organizers though, are confident that an agreement for the players from axed I-League clubs such as Churchill Brothers, United SC and Rangdajied United, who have been banned from the I-League for next season as per an AIFF licensing committee ruling, can be reached in the due course of time.
With it being mandatory for each franchise in the tournament to have a mandatory set of 14 Indian players in the squad and with the likes of the Goan and North Eastern United already guaranteeing themselves of the required quota, the time is ticking for IMG-Reliance to ensure the other clubs have an adequate quota of players, viz. 84, to choose from come the August draft picks.
“We have about 60-65 players. The rest will be signed soon,” elucidated an IMG-Reliance spokesperson.
The likes of Subrata Paul, Gouramangi Moirangthem, Syed Rahim Nabi, Biswajit Saha, Nirmal Chettri and Manish Maithani had all enlisted themselves on the IMG-Reliance bandwagon by signing a two year contract, with as many as 41 players initially signing on for the tournament.
Ishfaq Ahmed, Govin Singh, Mehrajuddin Wadoo and NP Pradeep are amongst 16 players have been handed extensions, while Subhashish Roy Chowdhury , Israil Gurung, Lalit Thapa and Sangram Mukherjee alongside others have been added to the cart.
“A lot of players are approaching us. There is unlikely to be any shortfall,” explained the IMG spokesperson. The tournament is expected to begin on 19th September.