The 10th edition of the Hero I-League kicks off on Saturday 7th January 2017, with the first two matches between Bengaluru FC and Shillong Lajong at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium and Kingfisher East Bengal and Aizawl FC at Barasat Stadium.
For Bengaluru it will be start of their title defence in the I-League first phase matches, consisting of 9 rounds for the new 2016/17 season. The side who also reached the AFC Cup final in Doha will be looking to sustain the momentum under new coach Albert Roca, who look over from Ashley Westwood.
Former champions Mohun Bagan play their opening match at home at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium on Sunday against Churchill Brothers, while Mumbai FC and Chennai City FC take on DSK Shivajians and Minerva Punjab FC, respectively on the same day.
Colm Toal’s Ludhiana based I-League side Minerva Punjab FC, are a young team and along with with Chennai City are newcomers to the I-League. After Dempo, Sporting Clube de Goa and Salgaocar decided to pull out of this year, the new teams take the number of teams competing in the league upto 10, which means the game will reach out to more supporters and newer markets.
Sunando Dhar, the CEO of I-League, told TOI, “I am very happy. Minerva will add a newer dimension. I hope this will give the team a chance to rub shoulders with the country’s finest and also make the league more competitive.”
Chennai City although one of the newer clubs to the league, it also the oldest having been formed in 1946 by five friends. It was a club that always maintained a young squad were forever a presence in Chennai’s Senior Division, but whose players would be offered more money to play for rival teams.
The AFC Champions League 2017 preliminary stage is set to kick off on January 31st.