In the presence of Indian football stars, including striker Sunil Chhetri and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the 10th edition of I-League was launched on Tuesday amid much fanfare.
India’s premier domestic football competition will see a return of representation from all four regions of the country Mohun Bangan, East Bengal, Aizwal FC and Shillong Lajong from the East and North East; Mumbai FC, DSK Shivajians and Churchil Brothers from the West; Bengaluru FC and Chennai City FC from the South and debutants Minerva Punjab will bring the North back into top flight Indian football after a gap of five seasons.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel said: “The 10 participating teams in the 10th edition of the Hero I-League are based from across the length and breadth of the country. I thank Hero MotoCorp for their support to the I-League and Indian football.
“The league is the unifying factor for the football fans in India as right from Aizwal FC in the North-East to Mumbai FC in Mumbai, and from Minerva City Punjab FC in Chandigarh to Chennai City FC in Chennai, the clubs represent pan India. The Hero I-League is the premiere league of the country through which teams participate in the AFC Cup and the AFC Champions League. I wish success to all the participating teams.”
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said: “The competitive spirit of the I-League has been outstanding over the last few editions. The League witnessed a substantial increase of almost 40 percent in spectator attendance and here we are, prior to the kick off of the 10th edition, expecting the graph to further go up.”
He further stated: “This edition, the league has a pan India presence. I wish luck to all the teams. May the best team come out as the winner of the Hero I-League. Hero Motocorp has been providing extensive support for the promotion of Indian football and I thank them for their cooperation.”
The six-month league will kick off on January 7 in Bengaluru with defending champions Bengaluru FC locking horns with Shillong Lajong FC.
Pawan Munjal, Chairman, MD & CEO, Hero MotoCorp Ltd said:
“Football has clearly become one of the most popular sports among youngsters in the country. As the title sponsor of all the marquee football tournaments in the country - Hero ISL, Hero I-League and Hero Federation Cup - Brand Hero has been the pioneer in popularising the game in India.
“With over 100 matches to be played by the 10 teams in the fray, the Hero I-League and Hero Federation Cup will certainly bring a lot of excitement for the fans, and contribute towards the long-term development of the game.”