Hero I-League 2016-17 officially launched in Kolkata

Arch-rivals Mohan Bagan and East Bengal will lock horns on January 23, 2016 amidst the ever-so-passionate Kolkata fans. The return leg between these two Indian Football power houses will be played on April 2, 2016.

Mohan Bagan goalkeeper and captain Shilton Paul said that the I-League 2014-15 is history now and everyone will be on equal footing on January 9 when the new season of the league kicks off.

The highly-awaited Hero I-League was officially launched at a city hotel on Wednesday with a glittering launch ceremony. The premier football competition was kick-start on January 9 with the first match being played between defending champions Mohun Bagan and newcomers Aizwal FC.

Over the next five months, there will total 72 high-octane matches across six cities in the country. Arch-rivals Mohan Bagan and East Bengal will lock horns on January 23, 2016 amidst the ever-so-passionate Kolkata fans. The return leg between these two Indian Football power houses will be played on April 2, 2016.

Footballers from each of the nine teams, including the two new outfits Aizwal FC and DSK Shivajians, were present at the opening ceremony.

Mohun Bagan captain Shilton Paul came up to the podium holding aloft the trophy and then kept it on a pedestal, signifying that it is up for grabs again.

“Hero I-League 2014-15 is history now, everyone will be on equal footing on 9th January when the new season of the league kicks off”, Shilton Paul, Mohun Bagan skipper said. “We’ve got to be on our toes right from the start to win the league again, there’s absolutely no other choice,” the goalkeeper added.

Shillong Lajong FC midfielder Boithang Haokip said he was looking forward for the north-east derby against Aizwal FC.

“We are very positive, looking forward to the north-east derby against Aizwal,” he said.

I-League chief executive officer (CEO) Sunando Dhar said that 65 percent of the matches this time will be telecast live and the percentage would go up in the next few years.

Dhar said he hoped the new marketing strategies in place for the I-League will draw fans to the stadiums in large numbers.

“This is probably the first time we are trying to promote the league. Last year, except Goa, there was 50 percent increase in number of spectators and 13 percent in viewership. With two new teams I believe we will have good crowds coming in,” he said.

Asked about the promotions, Dhar said: “We are trying to promote the league in regional channels. A bulk of the promotional budget is being spent on buying spots in regional media where the teams are based.”

Touting this Hero I-League season as the most competitive and promising Mr. Kushal Das, General Secretary, AIFF said, “We’ve witnessed an enthralling Hero I-League last season which kept us captivated till the final whistle on 31st May, 2015. Definitely the teams will try to push their limits this season too and strive hard to win the silverware. Champions Mohun Bagan can’t show any signs of complacency as all eight teams will play out of their skins to dethrone them.”

The prize money of I-League 2015-16 has also been increased. The champions will receive a whopping prize amount of one crore compared to the previous season champions pocketing 70 lakhs. The teams finishing second and third will win 60 lakhs and 40 lakhs respectively. Additionally, winners of every game will win 50,000.

Even the travel subsidy has been raised to 45 lakhs with the match day subsidy hiked to one lakh.

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