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Indian Football Roadmap; An Opinion

I am no writer or journalist. I am writing this article as an ardent Indian football fan, who wants to see football develops as a professional game in my country.

Lately, there has been a lot of talk and discussion that the ISL will be made the premier football league of the country. This might lead to the traditional clubs like East Bengal, Salgaocars and Mohun Bagan not being able to afford the fees in order to compete in this top football league.

I am putting up a few suggestions to tackle the problems faced by both the AIFF and the Clubs which I hope will help them to find a solution to their dilemma.

1. ISL as the top league: In my opinion AIFF should be applauded for suggesting that ISL should become the top league followed by I league (league 1) and I league 2(league 2). In any given country, the most money making league, is and has to be the top league in that country, so why not here in India? There have been opinions that I league clubs invested a vast amount of money, time and effort to fulfill the club licensing criteria.

Yes, I fully agree with all the efforts taken by these clubs to get the required licenses but the league has failed to connect to fans and increase the number of fans attending or watching the game. So my suggestion is that the ISL can have 8 present teams. In addition, the next I league season’s top 4 clubs can be given a chance to get promoted into the ISL, and subsequently, the 2 lowest teams from that season can be relegated and the next season’s top 2 teams from League 1 can be promoted.

 A question now arises pertaining to the present ISL teams and AIFF who are bound by contractual obligations. In order to solve this problem ISL teams can be given immunity from relegation till the contract is fulfilled whereas the 4 teams and subsequent teams in the lower divisions can be exempted from these franchise’s fee till the time the ISL teams and AIFF have honoured their contracts.

By this we give a fair chance to the I league (traditional) clubs to compete in the top league of the country and also honoured the contracts of ISL teams. So the league will eventually have 12 teams. This can gradually be increased to 16 teams competing for the top trophy, in the coming 8 to 10 years.

2. National Cup( Federation Cup): The national cup can be played in between the league matches so that the clubs can get a chance to try out players. This will also serve a dual purpose by maintaining the fitness of the players throughout the year. The top division clubs along with the top clubs from the league 1 can be given byes for the initial rounds. Whereas, the lower division clubs, fight it out to reach the main rounds, in the preliminaries.

League 3 and 4 (future) division clubs along with some state clubs can also be given a chance to enter the cup preliminary rounds so that they can rub shoulders with the big boys. This will give the lower clubs a platform to showcase their talent and might lead to unseen players being spotted.

3. Youth Leagues: Youth leagues can continue as they are, being played at Zonal cum National levels, where all clubs from the top 3 leagues have to field their teams in all the age group leagues. Teams can be divided into zones depending on the number of teams in each zone. Academies also can be given spots, so that their trainees can get an opportunity to play alongside the junior teams from the top division clubs. U14, U16 and U18 can be the 3 feeder leagues for the clubs for future talents. This will aid in the youth and grassroot development.

These are just my personal opinions, not to be taken against any individual or any team. Suggestions and questions are welcome.

Jan Rodrigues (email: