The 2019-20 I league will be the 13th edition of the I league, since its establishment in 2007.Although being effectively relegated to the 2nd tier of Indian Football after AIFF’S decision to give ISL the credit of the top tier football league of India.
I league 2019,is all set to begin a new season with new hopes and expectations from 30th November 2019.
With some fearsome rivalries amongst the clubs and teams from all parts of India winning the league in earlier years, this year also I league promises to be a battleground for some of the finest football clubs of India.
Shillong Lajong , a club from the north eastern state of Meghalaya, were relegated from the top division after the 2018 -19 season, having finished at the bottom position and now will be featuring in the 2nd division of I league this year.
Similarly, TRAU FC,also a club from the north eastern state of Manipur, were promoted from I league 2nd division to the top division. TRAU FC is the 2nd team from Manipur after NEROCA FC to have featured in I league top division.
Let us now take a look at all the 11 clubs to be featuring in I league 2019-20 and their key foreign players and also about their possibility to win the league.
1. Chennai City FC
Based in Coimbatore,Tamil Nadu,Chennai City FC are the defending Champions and are forming a pretty strong team this time around also under their Singaporean coach Akbar Nawas Their strength lies in their foreign players. Spaniard Pedro Manzi is lethal at the top and has already proven his mettle last year by being awarded as the Highest Goal Scorer of the league with 21 goals ,along with Willis Plaza of Churchill Brothers.
Manzi scored 4 hat tricks as well in last edition of I league. Chennai will also be boosted in the mid field by their latest recruit Katsumi Yusa,an old war horse of Indian footballing arena. This attacking Midfielder from Fukushima,Japan can be an asset for any team with his speed & dribbling skills Chennai City FC has a very stable team and can finish within top 4 if plays according to their
2. Gokulam Kerala FC
Based in Calicut,Kerala,Gokulam Kerala FC will be playing their 3rd season this year in I league. Having been placed at the lower half of the league in the earlier 2 editions (7th in 2017-18,9th in 2018-19) of the competition,Gokulam is determined to get a good result this time in I league. Arguably, they have the best team on board this time around on paper. Marcus Joseph,who has been appointed as the team captain as well,will be leading from the front for the club.
He will be accompanied by Ugandan Striker Henry Kisekka and 2 fellow countrymen from Trinidad & Tobago – Nathaniel Garcia at the midfield and Andre Etienne at the back. Gokulam has also signed Afghan international Harun Amiri to give more strength in their defence.Gokulam Kerala FC will be the team to beat this time and can be termed as the pre- season
favourites to lift the trophy this season.
3. Real Kashmir FC
Founded only in 2016 and nick named as “ Snow Leopards”, this team from Srinagar,Kashmir- is the youngest team of I league and this is their 2nd appearance in the tournament. Their Scottish Head coach David Robertson is coaching the team since its inception and that has definitely made a good impact on their play as well.
They finished at 3rd place last time and want to win the league this time. For that they have brought in Englishman Kallum Higginbotham,a star striker,who has played both in scottish premiership and English championship. This 30 year old Englishman,is arguably the biggest signing this year in I league, as he has already mesmerised the fans with his speed and skills and up and down runs down the flank at both in England & Scotland.
Alongside Higginbotham,they have Aaron Ketabe ,a defensive Midfielder from Zambia and Mason Robertson – a defender from Scotland to be named as some of the notable players of the current squad. Unlike last time, Real Kashmir will be playing all their home matches at Srinagar under chilly conditions and sub zero temperatures, which might turn out to be favourable for them.Hence,they will be a team to beat especially in home condition.
4. PUNJAB FC
Formerly known as Minerva Punjab FC,this Chandigarh based team is willing to improve their position this time in the table from a dismal 9th place finish in the last edition. They were the champions of season 2017-18 and would love to repeat the same feat again. They have already recruited 7 foreign internationals among them Jay Hart from England and Cameroonian Aser Pierrick Dipanda Dicka ,are the most renowned.
Both the above mentioned players will spearhead Punjab FC’s attack at the front where as Brazilian Danilo Quipapa and Teah Dennnis Jr from USA will hold the fort at the back for them. The midfield is dependent on Gambian Dewda Ceesay,who has played for Churchill Brothers in I league in the previous three seasons.
5. Mohun Bagan
Termed as the “National Club” of India,this oldest football club of India is all set to make its mark in this year’s I league. Although they have won the league 4 times in the past( 3 times national league,1 time I league), their last success came way back in 2014-15 season under coach Sanjoy Sen.
So they will be desperate to break the jinx this time around. They have roped in Spanish coach Kibu Vicuña who with his sound technical knowledge, is helping to play the team better. Their success in this year’s I league majorly depends on their central midfielder Spaniard Joseba Beitia.
His amazing ball control has already made him a heart throb amongst the fans. Along with Beitia, Julen Colinas,Salva Chamorro and Fran Gonzalez( all from spain) will spearhead the attack for Mohun Bagan this season. On the defensive front,Daniel Cyrus from Trinidad & Tobago and Fran Morante from Spain will hold the back. Mohun Bagan has had a pretty good pre season outing and can be expected to finish at the top half of the league.
6. East Bengal
The other Giant club from The city of Joy after Mohun Bagan, the “Red & Gold “ brigade- is raring to go with their well built team under high profile coach Alejandro Menendez from Spain. Alexandro is taking care of East Bengal 2nd year in the running and he and his men will be desperate this year to break the jinx of never winning an I league title since its inception in 2007(they have won 3 National league title prior to formation of I league).
They have built a strong team mainly holding onto the same team from last year . A lot of their success depends on the performance of their Spanish Armada- Juan Gonzalez, Marcos de la Espada & Jaime Santos Colado at the upfront- with Colado being the main architect in the midfield. Coldao will be ably supported by Senegalese Midfielder Kassim Aidara.
Their back also looks strong with inclusion of Marti Crespi & Borja Gomez Perez in defence. On paper, they look the most accomplished team after Gokulam Kerala with very good foreign players in all the 3 departments.
7. Aizawl FC
Aizawl FC burst into the limelight by winning the I league in their 2nd appearance in 2016-17 and there by becoming the 1st team from NorthEast to have won the title. Since their debut, Aizawl fc has always been competitive both in their home and away games. This time also they have built a strong team under head Coach Stanley Rozario.
They are mainly dependent on their local youth players but also recruited some of the interesting foreign players who are well known names in Indian football. Biggest of them are Alfred Jaryan- A liberian international ,who plays in the midfield and holds the game together. They have also named Alfred Jaryan as their captain this year.
Another Liberian international , Ansumana Kromah, a prolific striker and goal poacher, will join them but only when the 2nd transfer window of FIFA opens by mid of January 2020. Aizawl have also roped in a very interesting player from Bhutan- Tshering Dorji- who plays as an attacking midfielder and is quite good when it comes to scoring goals.
8. NEROCA FC
NEROCA FC, 1st team from Manipur to have played in top division of I league in 2017-18 and became runners up in the debut season itself. After a gap of 1 year in 2018, NEROCA have again brought in their most reliable Head coach- Gift Raikhan. He coached this team from 2015-2018 and during this tenure he took this team to the top division of I league in 2016.
This year,NEROCA is mainly dependent on their local youth players with 2 foreign recruits from the african country of Togo- Gaty Kouami and Sekle Yao Zico- both plays as an attacking Midfielder. They have also signed Boubacar Dierra, who is a Malian footballer and plays as defensive midfielder. A lot of NEROCA’s success will be dependent on their local young brigade’s performance.
9. TRAU FC
TRAU FC are making a debut this year in I league after gaining promotion. TRAU FC have roped in Cyprot Dimitris Dimitriou as their head for the 2019-20 season. The 49-year old has already worked with English club Manchester City and the Irish national team. TRAU FC have already recruited six foreigners in the transfer window including the likes of Brazilian striker Marcel Sacramento and Ugandan defender Oguchi Uche.
Apart from that, they have strengthened their Indian contingent by signing Abhinas Ruidas, Deepak Devrani, Abhishek Das and Denechandra Meitei. They have a young team and be a Surprise package of this year ‘s I league. They will certainly be a team to watch out for and become a “ Giant Killer” team.
10. Churchill Brothers
Churchill Brothers are the lone representative team from Goa as well as the Western India in I league 2019-20. They have a rich history behind them and has won the national league title I-League two times, in 2008–09 and 2012–13,and has secured a position among the top three teams on eight other occasions in the national level league tournament.
Their main player is definitely Trinidadian Willis Plaza,who was the joint top scorer in Last edition of In league. His fellow countryman Radanfah Abu Bakr,will hold their fort at the back in defence.
11. Indian Arrows
Indian Arrows( previously known as Pailan Arrows) will be playing this year’s I league based out from Bhubaneswar. The club was formed with the main goal of nurturing young Indian football talents. After disbanding in 2013, the project was revived as Indian Arrows in 2017 and since then it has been a regular part of I League .
This team is built with Indian U-17,U-19,U-20 players and no foreign players are allowed to be a part of this team. The team is currently coached by Floyd Pinto . Unlike other I league teams, this team is immune to relegation.In a first, fans from across the country, this season will witness two local derbies – the legendary Kolkata derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, and the Imphal derby featuring Neroca FC and TRAU FC.
All the 110 matches of the 13th edition of the Hero I-League 2019-20 will be broadcast live exclusively on DSPORT.
The prize money for the top four teams of I League will be as follows:
Winners – Rs. 1 Crore
Runners up – Rs. 60 Lakh
Third Place – Rs. 40 Lakh
Fourth Place – Rs. 25 Lakh.
Mohun Bagan Fan,Follows Indian Football closely,Sports enthusiast from City of Joy-Kolkatta