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I-League stares at uncertainty; all clubs worried

Mumbai: Eight years after its inception, India's leading football competition I-League is facing an uncertain future amid reports that two clubs are shutting shop even as a newly launched Indian Super League gains momentum.

All the 11 I-League Clubs expressed their concern over the future of the national league to President of All India Football Federation (AIFF) Praful Patel two weeks ago, said one of the club officials who did not wish to be named.

"All the I-League clubs met Praful Patel two weeks ago in Delhi and expressed their concerns over the direction taken by Indian football and the future of I-League itself. Every club official expressed concern at that meeting," said the official today amid reports that two Pune-based I-League clubs -- Pune FC and Bharat FC -- may decide to shut shop.

"At this point of time there are certain concerns in the minds of some clubs whether to carry on in the I-League," he added. I-League has been a largely neglected entity of the AIFF after the birth of the unique product - Indian Super League (ISL) - that captured the fans' attention in its inaugural year (2014) itself.

The huge paychecks to the players and presence of overseas stars, most of them though past their best years, made the first season of ISL a big success with good crowds attending the matches.

Some ISL franchise teams are owned by Bollywood stars Abhishek Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor and former cricket superstars Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly, who have brought glamour to the product floated by IMG-Reliance and Star Sports with the backing of AIFF, the apex football body.

Although AIFF officials have repeatedly parroted the line that I-League is the main league of Indian football, the recent development has put a huge question mark on the future of the national league.

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