I-League schedule raises concerns

With 11 days to go for the premier domestic football tournament, the club owners and secretaries do not sound confident of marketing the matches and putting up a good show.

With 11 days to go for the premier domestic football tournament, the club owners and secretaries do not sound confident of marketing the matches and putting up a good show.   -  GETTY IMAGES

All’s not well with the I-League. With 11 days to go for the premier domestic football tournament, a few club owners have raised concerns about the scheduling and logistics.

Ranjit Bajaj, owner of Minerva Punjab FC did not mince words when he called the scheduling “a logistical nightmare.”

“Ideally, we should have been informed 45 days in advance. For example, we have an away match on December 27 against Aizwal and then, another away match against Churchill Brothers on December 30,” said Ranjit. He believes the I-League is being undermined in the presence of Indian Super League (ISL).

Lalnghinglova Hmar, Secretary of Shillong Lajong FC was sympatheic to the All India Football Federation, and didn’t prefer to be overtly critical. “I am not complaining,” said Hmar on the scheduling. “Most of the matches are going to be televised. So it is not easy,” he added. But he admitted that there might be problems when Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and ISL team ATK share the Salt Lake Stadium for games.

Lmar refused to be drawn into a debate on whether I-League is being undermined when compared to ISL. “They are two different products. You can’t compare both. However, he added that an announcement (of fixtures) at such a short notice will a big challenge for all clubs to hit the road running. Let’s wait and see,” he said.

However, Rohit Ramesh, owner of Chennai City FC expressed satisfaction with the scheduling. Chennai City’s first I-League home match is scheduled on December 23 against East Bengal in Coimbatore (at the Nehru Stadium). He has enough time on his hands to go about his job. “We are quite happy with the scheduling,” he said, while adding, “marketing the match will be a challenge.”

The work at the ground has started already and Rohit is sure that the venue will be ready much before the home match kicks off.

“We are using Bermuda grass and we are getting expert advise from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (Coimbatore). We started revamping the ground last week, and we expect to complete it much before our match begins,” said Krishnakumar, a partner in the club.

Krishnakumar said Chennai City is in the process of giving a complete facelift to the stadium with new dressing rooms, dope control room, room for Match Commissioner, installing two floodlights with a capacity of 1300 lux each, and painting the galleries (the stadium’s capacity is 30,000).

“We are doing the A to Z with regards to giving the stadium a brand new look,” said Krishnakumar.

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