What to expect in 2019 in Indian football

What to expect in 2019 in Indian football

Sunil Chhetri with team players pose for picture during the official jersey launch of the Indian National football team held at Le Meridien on 19th December 2018, New Delhi, India.

After almost a decade, the India team will compete alongside the continent’s best teams at the Asian Cup in the UAE from January 5. The Blue Tigers go in as the world’s 97th-ranked side, the highest it has been placed in a long, long time. After two years of an unprecedented Indian climb up the FIFA ladder, the three group matches against Thailand, UAE and Bahrain will show the team’s actual standing in world, and Asian, football.

Midway through 2019, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is likely to take a crucial decision that might have a huge impact on the way the sport is played domestically. For close to five years, India has had two “premier” tournaments — the Indian Super League and I-League. The AIFF, bound by its contract with commercial partners Reliance Sports, has not been able to come up with a merger formula that’s acceptable to all. Under pressure from FIFA and Asian Football Confederation, the AIFF has to ensure this year that there’s just one national league. In all likelihood, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, the country’s most iconic clubs, will jump ship and join the more glitzy ISL. Consequently, the I-League will be reduced to second division. How smoothly the transition takes place remains to be seen.

Internationally, after France won the hugely entertaining men’s World Cup in Russia, they will host the women’s showpiece event from June 7 to July 7. The USA are once again the favourites, but France, Germany and Japan will hope to challenge their supremacy

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