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SPIA Asia 2018: I-League adjudged runners-up in 'developing football league' by AFC

16:27 GMT 20/11/2018
Hero I-League logo
India's premier domestic club football league adds another feather to its cap...

The All India Football Federation's (AIFF) flagship domestic club league, the I-League has been awarded the silver rank in 'Best Developing Football League of the Year' category by AFC (Asian Football Confederation)' at the 2018 SPIA (Sports Industry Awards) Asia awards night in Bangkok on Tuesday.

The I-League narrowly missed out on the top spot as Vietnam's V.League 1 bagged gold. Indonesia's Go-Jek Liga 1 won bronze.


The screen on the stage displayed 'Indian Super League' instead of I-League as the representatives from India, a mistake on the part of the organisers.

Praising the achievment, AIFF president Praful Patel said, "I need to thank the Asian Football Confederation for nominating us and SPIA Awards for the recognition. My heartiest congratulations to all the stakeholders, especially the Clubs who have been an integral part of the league. I would also like to congratulate the AIFF and the I-League department for their hard work.”

The I-League which is in its twelfth season was nominated in the first place on the back of a couple of interesting seasons. After Aizawl FC won in 2016-17, the league caught attention worldwide as the success of the North-Eastern club was compared to Leicester City's 2015-16 Premier League winning campaign.

Minerva Punjab, another team which in its second year of top-flight football won the 2017-18 edition, capturing the imagination of the masses. In the last few years, Bengaluru FC, who now compete in the cash-rich Indian Super League, became the first team from India to participate in the final of the AFC Cup in 2016, after winning the 2015-16 I-League.

Despite the Indian Super League's growing popularity ever since its inception in 2014, the I-League has seen record attendances in the past couple of seasons. 2017-18 onwards, the ISL was awarded an AFC competition spot but only in the second-tier AFC Cup as the I-League continued to be the numero uno division in India, with the winners getting a crack at the AFC Champions League's qualifying rounds.

The AIFF's General Secretary Kushal Das and I-League CEO Sunando Dhar were in attendance in Bangkok on Tuesday. Das said, "This recognition comes two years after AIFF had won the Award for the AFC Developing Member Association of the Year Award in 2016. It is so satisfying to see that AIFF’s initiative for developing Hero I-League pan India and introducing the Club Licensing criteria has earned Indian Football this award."

“I would like to congratulate everyone who has been part of the League – FSDL, the Clubs, Hero, the fans, all other stakeholders and my colleagues in AIFF without whose support this wouldn’t have been possible.”

Sunandho Dhar stated that the league is on the right track and the award motivated the whole team to improve, "Nothing can be more inspiring. We have been on our job in the best manner possible and this Award is an indication that we are on the right track and is a motivation for us to do better.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the fans whose support means the world to us and all my colleagues in the League department,” he added.

The I-League this season is an eleven-team affair, including a team from the state of Jammu and Kashmir for the very first time in Indian football history. Real Kashmir FC won their ticket to the top of the nation's footballing pyramid after winning the 2017-18 2nd Division I-League.