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No Wrong In Kolkata Having More Than One Team In Merged League : Sunando Dhar

Tuesday, 3 January 2017|Staff Reporter
If you are building a team and if you are there for the long run, I am sure you have plans to develop your own fanbase, said the I-League CEO.
In a riposte to Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) co-owner Sanjiv Goenka's recent statement that there can only be one team from Kolkata when the two leagues eventually merge, I-League CEO Sunando Dhar has said that he sees no problem why there cannot be more than one team from one region. "If you are building a team and if you are there for the long run, I am sure you have plans to develop your own fanbase," Dhar said in an exclusive interview days before the 10th edition of the I-League kicks off. "If there are eight teams in London, just in EPL. There are other teams from the Championship also in London and each has got their own fanbase. "So similarly, I am sure there can be three teams or more than one team from Kolkata, Goa and Chennai and that should not be a problem for those teams," he added. But does that mean the road ahead is clear for Mohun Bagan and East Bengal to be part of the proposed league? Only time will tell as the merger has lots of complications and if it is really done for the betterment of Indian Football, both the I-League and ISL along with clubs in both the leagues will have to compromise on certain things. Goenka, after ATK had won their second Indian Super League (ISL) title this year, had said that his franchise is the biggest from the city. "I don't want to comment on what Mr. Goenka has said. But I think anyone remotely associated with football in the country would know how big East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are, not only in India but also in Asia," Dhar stated. Moving to Goa, Dhar also feels that, Churchill Brothers, back in the I-League after a two-year hiatus, would have a great opportunity to attract all of Goa to come and support their team. "I think it's a great opportunity for Churchill. For the first time in the history, they will play as the only team from Goa, so they have a chance to bring the entire Goa to the stands like FC Goa did in the ISL." On the impending merger where the I-League would become League One and the ISL the main league, Dhar said it would be the best scenario for the players. "There won't be any I-League. There would be the top league, then the league one and the league two," Dhar said. "The quality of I-League has been very good in the last two-three years. The intensity with which it has been played by teams has been phenomenal and I would like to believe it would be better. "One league, quality would go up as you will play every weekend. India is a huge country so travelling is tough. "Football is a body contact game and you need rest. A short league means if you're injured six or seven weeks you miss almost half of the season. So a longer league is good for the players also," the CEO said. On the fact that the top league, according to plans, will have no relegation, Dhar said, "There are other leagues in the world which has not got any relegation. There are few contractual obligations which we need to keep in mind. Ultimately, we'll have relegation. Dhar also felt the ISL clubs won't hit a roadblock when it comes to meeting club licensing criteria. "I don't think it is very difficult for them. They have been here for the last three four years. Most of the ISL clubs have that professional running of administration. They need to invest money into youth development and I think with proper approach that should not be a problem." A longer league, Dhar believes should also solve the over the hill marquee player problem in the ISL. "The average age of marquee player in the ISL have come down. I think the clubs have realised that bringing a Del Piero is good but at the end of the day he needs to perform on the pitch. "Also it's easier to get these players for three months. When you talk about whole nine months, I am sure all clubs would want players who can carry on for that amount of time with the same intensity." Dhar concluded by spilling the beans on what happens after this season with the team that wins the league and more importantly the one that gets relegated. "The one who wins the league go on to play the Champions League qualifiers. "We have also mentioned in the regulation that the relegation and promotion will depend on restructuring of the league that is being undertaken at the moment."