The I-League, once India’s premier football league, now relegated to a level below the Indian Super League, kicked off on November 30, amidst negligible fanfare. The glitz and glamour of the ISL has resulted in rumours that the two leagues may be merged to make just one definitive football competition in India.
Nevertheless, the I-League continues for this season at least and former champions, Aizawl and Mohun Bagan started the proceedings with a drab draw last Saturday. The game hardly saw any chances being created and neither team could muster up any late winners.
The first goal of the new I-League 2019-20 season was scored by table-toppers Gokulam FC against Neroca FC in the later fixture of the day. They took the lead through Henry Kisekka just before half-time and quickly doubled it after the break to ensure that even a late goal from Taryk Sampson could not curtail their winning start.
Gokulam FC earned their second win of the season a few days later against Indian Arrows as Henry Kisekka scored again to give them a 1-0 victory but it was marred by a straight red card for Andre Etienne late in the game. Neroca FC got their first win against Aizawl the same day, as Ousmane Diawara scored mid-way through the first-half to propel them to fourth on the I-League table.
Eternal favourites, Churchill Brothers started their campaign with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Punjab FC as Anwar Ali compounded the latter’s problems when he earned a second yellow card in the dying moments of the game.
Defending champions Chennai City FC also got off to a winning start, beating newcomers, TRAU FC 1-0, though it was not a smooth ride by any means. Slogging for much of the game, they eventually took the lead in the 49th minute courtesy Fito Miranda, and then held on for three points in front of a 8,000-capacity home crowd.
Bengal’s other esteemed club, East Bengal did not enjoy the same start as their title rivals. They played out a 1-1 draw against the gutsy Real Kashmir, when Marco Jimenez equalized after the side from the northern-most state had taken the lead in the 33rd minute through Gnohore Krizo.
The I-League had to endure some off-field problems too as their broadcasters, DSport, used new technology to telecast the games, which resulted in a few technical glitches, a problem the league claimed they would rectify soon enough.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @GokulamKeralaFC