I-League vs ISL: It's a challenge! One team is ready to take the battle to the enemy camp

Parth Jindal, Chairman & MD, JSW Group (left) and Mustafa Ghouse, COO, Bengaluru FC (Pic: Fotocorp)

BENGALURU FC CEO Parth Jindal has declared an open challenge to all ISL franchises to play a match against the former I-League and current Federation Cup champions. Taking to Twitter to issue the gutsy battle cry, Jindal said there was no doubt in his mind which team would come out on top.

The current split dual league system sees that ISL franchises remain separated from I-League clubs, mostly to ensure that ISL can borrow players from I-League clubs on an as-needed basis. But this has not stopped fans from speculating what would happen if certain ISL franchises and I-League clubs took on each other. One of the most talked-about crossover matches is between Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC, due to the obvious rivalry between these cities. The other match-up that keeps getting brought up is between current ISL champions Atletico de Kolkata and current I-League champions Mohun Bagan or their arch rivals East Bengal, another powerhouse club from Kolkata.

Crossover matches like this have taken place before. In the lead up to the inaugural ISL, I-League club Pune FC played two frienly matches against ISL franchises Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City. The ISL teams triumphed heavily over the I-League club on both occasion.

Now that the Bengaluru FC has issued the challenge, it will be interesting to see if any franchise takes him up on it. With the ISL kick-off only 7 days away, the franchises may be reluctant to engage in such an impromptu match-up and risk disrupting their final preparations schedule, despite the obvious publicity it will generate. 

But if any ISL franchsie did want to play such a match, it would be very difficult to get around the complications regarding shared players. All the major Indian players from Bengaluru FC, including Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh and Eugeneson Lyngdoh, are playing for various ISL franchises. Who would they be playing for? And without these vital players, how much of a challenge will Bengaluru FC manage to put up?

Parth Jindal's tweet probably comes from a place of frustration, as despite having created a vibrant and loyal fanbase out of nothing, the ISL puts his club and other vital stakeholders of Indian football out of the limelight for two prime months of the football season. Bengaluru FC will be out of action until January, when they get their players back from ISL, and begin their campaigns in I-League and AFC Cup.

So despite the fiesty call to arms, there's little chance that fans will get to see a high-voltage Bengaluru FC vs Chennaiyin FC encounter in the near future. That is, not until I-League and ISL finally merge and we get to see the best clubs in India take on each other in single, no holds barred top flight football league.  


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