A lot will be different for the upcoming 2020/21 I-League due to the ongoing pandemic and also without the Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, who have moved up to the Indian Super League.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the I-League will be the played at one city, in and around Kolkata, with teams having to stay in a bubble with general football SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) to be followed.
But there is one interesting question to me, how will the departure of the Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal Club impact the I-League?
For the first-time since the inception of the National Football League in 1996, the NFL/I-League will be played without the big two from Kolkata though that fact is also not fully correct, then Mohun Bagan missed the final round of the inaugural 1996/97 NFL as they couldn’t qualify from the preliminary round.
Mohun Bagan has lifted the I-League title twice in the last few seasons while East Bengal has never won the I-League title, but both had won the old NFL title three times each.
These two clubs are heavyweights of Indian football and them not playing the I-League will be a huge loss to the league. But the I-League has over the last few years become more of a pan-Indian league with teams from Mizoram, Punjab and Tamil Nadu lifting the title upsetting Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, while teams from across the country have played in it be it from Kashmir and Punjab in the North, Mizoram, Manipur and Meghalaya in the Northeast, Bengal in the East, Goa and Maharashtra in the West, and Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in the South.
Now the 2020/21 I-League will be a chance for teams like Gokulam Kerala FC from Kozhikode or RoundGlass Sports owned Punjab FC or Goan giants Churchill Brothers, who all look to play in the Indian Super League one day, to fight for the title.
And also with Mohun Bagan and East Bengal no longer involved, the focus will be on the other clubs of the media and fans, which could be a chance or also added pressure.
In the end, the I-League will survive without Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, the question is what the clubs make out of it!