June 29 – The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has officially recognised the Indian Super League. As a result, India will have two national leagues next season.
The ISL was founded in 2013 as a star-studded and cash-rich league, giving Indian football a new impetus. In popularity and exposure, it quickly toppled the more traditional I-League, India’s prime domestic league.
This week the ISL has finally been granted official recognition by the AFC. The franchise-based league was without AFC recognition in its first three editions. The AFC gave its consent to the All India Football Federation’s proposal through a letter signed by general secretary Dato Windsor John, according to the Press Trust of India.
The winner of the I-league will still gain a valuable ticket to the AFC Champions League qualifiers, with failure of qualification leading to an automatic berth in the AFC Cup. The next ISL champions will be eligible for an AFC Cup qualifying ticket, a slot that was previously reserved for the winners of the Federation Cup.
No Indian team has ever qualified for Asia’s main club competition.
The AFC has however emphasised that this structure is a temporary one, with Indian football needing a long-term plan to resolve the internal divide between its two leagues. The All India Football Federations has long failed to come up with a proposal agreeable to all sides to address the juxtaposition of the ISL and the I-League.
There has been talk of a merger, but concrete movement in that direction hasn’t materialised yet, with the integration of some of India’s most traditional clubs in the I-League posing the biggest problem.
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