I-League teams refuse international breaks

I-League has decided to carry on without its international players during the three international breaks alloted to the Indian Super League.

Representational Image   -  M. Periasamy

While the Indian Super League will accommodate three international breaks over the course of the season, the I-League does not intend to endure any such intervals.

The ISL, which commences on September 29, will pause in October and November for international friendlies and for a national camp in December for the AFC Asian Cup. The league will also break for nearly a month for the Asian Cup. The I-League teams, on the other hand, have requested the tournament organisers to forego the international breaks.

"There won't be any breaks," I-League CEO Sunando Dhar told Sportstar on Monday. "That's what the I-League sides have decided. The I-League teams will play their matches without their players who will be representing the national team."

An overwhelming majority of players selected to the national team over the last six months ply their trade in the ISL, with only a handful of representatives from the I-League. Stephen Constantine's 24-man squad for the Asian Cup qualifier in March had only three I-League players and only four for the Intercontinental Cup in June.

Read: Indian Super League to begin on September 29

Since then, Mohammed Rafique and Alen Deory, two prominent members in the Englishman's selection from the I-League, have made the switch to the ISL, leaving only Salam Ranjan and Laldanmawia Ralte likely to remain in the I-League for the domestic season.

The marked preference displayed by Constantine towards ISL players may have influenced the I-League teams to decline any possibility of an international break.

Dhar added, "On the day of India's matches at the Asian Cup, there won't be I-League matches." He also indicated that the league is set to commence in the last week of October while the preliminary round of the second division of the I-League will begin in November.

"We are talking to the broadcaster (Star Sports) and hopefully, it will be in the last week of October. The second division's preliminary round will start in the second week of November and the final round will be in March-April," Dhar said.