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I-LEAGUE 2020-21 Start: History, Records, and Present

14th Edition of Hero I-League starts with Sudeva Delhi FC playing against Mohammedan SC at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK), Kolkata on Saturday afternoon.

Currently, I-LEAGUE consists of 11 clubs where clubs play twice with each other (once at home ground and once at opposite team’s ground). With every win, the team receives 3 points where as the draw gives 1 point to both teams and the team lost is not awarded any points.

The team with the most points wins the league (*In case of a tie, the goal difference is looked upon of the teams tied). The winner of the league gets to participate in AFC Cup but no club from I-LEAGUE has made it to the AFC Champions League till date. Soon we would be watching Indian Clubs competing with international football clubs in AFC Champions League.

Birth and growth of football in India:

Football has been a great part of history all over the world and bringing people together in different time periods. Whether it has been a world war or bringing a nation on its feet, Football has been an emotion above all negative aspects of human life.

Football have a long chronology of events in India like other countries playing the sport and one of the major mark on the Indian Football history was the introduction of a professional tournament for the different professional football clubs in India.

If we look back in time, It was year 1872 when football was introduced by british soldiers to the locals and it was a young boy named NAGENDRA PRASAD SARBHADHAKARI (also known as father of Indian football) who promoted the sport to locals with his friends.

Later after the sport got little popular, few clubs got established like Calcutta Fc (the oldest football club in the Indian football history but initially it was rugby club) and the oldest official football club was established in the year of 1889 i.e. Mohun Bagan Athletic Football club just after introduction of DURAND CUP by Sir Mortimer Durand in 1888.

But the league which we’re talking about came after a long time in which India’s own Football association came into being in the name of INDIAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION (1893) which later became AIFF( ALL INDIA FOOTBALL FEDERATION) in 1937.

League for India:

AIFF was the body that created, first of its kind in the country, a professional tournament under AFC (Asian Football Confederation) with the name of NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE (NFL). It was the very next year (1997) when AIFF introduced 2nd division of the league and adding U-19 league in 2001 which was followed by the introduction of the 3rd division of the league in 2006.

But the major transition came in the league season 2007-2008 which was the sign of professional growth and maturity of Indian football. In the year 2007 AIFF changed the name of the league to I-LEAGUE and few changes in the formats like relegation/promotion from 1st to 2nd division or vice-a-versa, change in the restriction over foreign players with new rule of 4 foreign players(3 non-Asian and 1 Asian) and bringing in the ZEE Sports as official broadcasting partners.

Since 2007, I-LEAGUE became the biggest professional league of India and the champion of I-LEAGUE represents India in the AFC Cup (Asia’s secondary international club competition).

I-League Records till date:

The inaugural edition of the National Football League (NFL) was held in 1996-97 and JCT Club were the maiden champions. I-League started from 2007-08 which was won by Dempo Sports Club.

Dempo SC have won the national title a maximum of 5 times (NFL-2, I-League-3), Mohun Bagan 3 times (NFL-3 and I-League – 1), East Bengal – 3 times (NFL-3) , Salgaocar Club  Twice (NFL-1, I-League-1), Churchill Brothers – Twice (I League – 2) and Bengaluru FC twice (I-League – 2), JCT Club (NFL) & Mahindra United (NFL), Minerva Punjab FC (I-League) & Aizawl FC (I-League) – once each.

No team has won the title for three years in a row. only East Bengal ( 2002-03,2003-04) and Dempo SC (2006-07.2007-08) winning the title two years in a row.

East Bengal has recorded a maximum of 227 wins in NFL/I-LEAGUE. East Bengal holds the record of longest unbeaten record of 22 consecutive matches in the NFL from Jan 2002 – April 2003.

Mohun Bagan recorded the maximum of 10 consecutive wins in 2008-09 (I-LEAGUE)

I-League Leading Scorers:

Ranti Martins – 214 goals

Odafa Okolie – 165 goals

Yusif Yakubu – 146 goals

Chidi Edeh – 103 goals

Jose Barreto – 101 goals

Sunil Chettri – 93 goals

Bhaichung Bhutia – 89 goals   

Highest scorer in one edition till date is Ranti Martin (Dempo SC) scored 32 goals in 2011-12. Maximum goals in one match by an individual is 7 goals, scored by Ranti Martins (Dempo SC) vs Air India on 30.05.11 at Margao, Goa.

Dempo SC have scored the maximum of 63 goals in one edition in 2010-11. Dempo SC recorded the highest margin victory by defeating Air India 14-0 on 30.05.11 at Margao, Goa and it was the match with a maximum number of goals in one match till date. Dempo has recorded the highest points by winning the 2011-12 edition with 57 points.

I-League has seen ups and downs during the transition period but still it’s a league full of excitement and thrill showed by the team, players and supporters.

ISL (Indian Super League), the other commercial league has been incepted to bring out the best of Indian football but what it lacks in front of I-League is the essence of Indian culture. But what I-League is looking for so long is transparency, popularity/recognition, and an image that associate the league with football fans of the country.

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