THE EXCLUSIVE NATURE of the window reserved for Indian Super League means that the I-League clubs in India have very little to do from October to December. Although Durand Cup takes place during that time, it is hardly seen as an attractive competition by the top Indian football clubs, most of whom are left with an incomplete squad at this time, since a number of their players depart to take part in the ISL. Stagnation like this during two of the peak months of the football season is bad for the squad's fitness, apart from being a general waste of good weather. Hence, many Indian clubs have started to look for opportunities to play abroad.
Last year, 3 clubs from I-League, namely Mohun Bagan and Pune FC, went off to Bhutan to participate in the King's Cup over there. This time, things are going to get better for the Kolkata club, as they will participate in a new exciting international tournament that is being founded in neighbouring nation Bangladesh.
The Sheikh Jamal International Tournament will be played in Dhaka from 17th to 30th October. It is being helmed by one of the prominent clubs in the Bangladesh Premier League, Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi. Seasoned Indian football fans will recognise Dhanmondi as the club that reached the IFA Shield Final in 2014, which they lost to Mohammedan Sporting. The subsequently went on to beat Pune FC in the final of the King's Cup to lift that title.
The new tournament is expected to feature 8 clubs. Two Indian clubs, Mohun Bagnan and East Bengal, have been invited to be a part of it. 3 major clubs from Bangladesh will also participate, in addition to one team each from Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The tournament is set to become one of the most diverse football competitions in South Asia, with almost the entire subcontinent represented in it.
There is already a huge amount of enthusiasm about the tournament in Bangladesh, and with the Indian clubs' participation confirmed, the excitement has started to spread in Kolkata. The event marks, without doubt, an increase in the mobility of the Indian clubs, and can be considered to be one of the few side effects that actually benefited the I-League clubs.