ONGC and HAL are going to be the two new sides in the I-League next season. The two teams topped the 2nd Division I-League finals held in Bangalore and left behind them much more fancied sides like Vasco SC and Mohammedan Sporting Club.
My congratulations to both sides for their achieving promotion!
Mumbai side ONGC finished top in the second division and finally gained promotion to the I-League after having failed over the last few years in their numerous attempts.
ONGC as a company will now have to ask itself the question if it makes sense to be the title sponsor of the I-League and have a team in the top tier or if it spends the money on their own team and tries to broaden its fan base in Mumbai.
Bangalore's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited bring back top tier Indian football to the Garden City, which surely deserves to the represented in the I-League. HAL, who last year weren't allowed to participate in the 2nd Division due to not fulfilling the AFC Club Licensing criteria, have proved a point that a group of seasoned footballers along with young and hungry players can achieve success without strong financial backing. And surely home advantage did work in their favour in the final round.
Both the teams deserve their place in the I-League, but the question has to be asked if it is good for Indian football that two institutional sides make it to the professional I-League. ONGC surely isn't an institutional team in the normal sense, but they still have to operate like one. And by having institutional backing these clubs are financially weaker then the corporate sides and lack the support of public clubs.
The AIFF wanted Delhi and Bangalore in the I-League next year. Now they have both, but not in the sense the federation would have liked to have seen it. Delhi will have the India Under-21 team as home side, while HAL bring Bangalore back onto the map.
The league continues to spread, but not the federation's preferred way...