Indian Football

The I-League’s last rites are being read, unfortunately after its most exciting season ever

The power centre has shifted and it’s time to accept that this could be the last season for the I-League.

The website of the I-League sported a curious look till the day that the fixtures for the 2017-’18 season were announced.

Bengaluru FC, having moved to the Indian Super League four months ago, Mumbai FC, relegated from the league and DSK Shivajians, having folded up league operations, were still listed as clubs in India’s top division. Yes, still ‘top division’, because the prized AFC Champions League slot is awarded to the winners of the I-League.

The CL slot, the perseverance of a few clubs and a dedicated fanbase seem to be the only factors for running the league. The layout of the website, though nothing more than lackadaisical web management, is symptomatic of the manner in which the league is run, to be conducted on a obligatory basis.

The I-League website as on November 13 before the fixtures were released. (Image courtesy:
The I-League website as on November 13 before the fixtures were released. (Image courtesy:

The fixtures were released 12 days prior to the opening match and Mohun Bagan, Gokulam FC and Aizawl have less than two weeks to book their flight tickets and come up with hotel reservations before their first matches.

There seems to be no clear reason for the delay as the clubs and the All India Football Federation continue to blame each other for the chaotic manner in which the league seems to be kicking off. A major point of contention also seem to be the 2 pm kickoffs.

Although the months of April and May, comparatively hotter months, will not see any matches this time around, the major drawback of hosting matches at 2pm on weekdays will see a good chunk of the working population miss out.

Temperatures in all the proposed venues, Delhi included, did not cross 32 degrees Celsius this February but that has not stopped observers from wondering about the standard of the game. The Federation Cup, held earlier this year, also provided a good reason as to why scheduling was such an important yet highly ignored aspect of the Indian footballing calendar.

Also, an important point to note is that five of the seven days in gameweeks will be utilised for matches. The Field had observed last season that the ISL risked viewer and player burnout with such clumped scheduling. The I-League, without the marketing reach of the ISL, could have made its biggest faux pas yet.

The only reason the two leagues still exist and are running concurrently is Aizawl’s barnstorming victory last season, which put a spanner in the works for AIFF’s plans to induct Bengaluru FC, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan into the ISL, thus making it the first division.

Aizawl’s win made it difficult to justify the relegation of the national champions to the second division. The quota of foreigners has increased to six this time around, as Kolkata’s top two were unwilling to take the chance that a club with a fraction of their budget will upset them once again.

Not only does this stretch the budget of the smaller teams, it could possibly mean a return of the early 2000s, when the National Football League was flooded with sub-par foreigners who took up a majority of attacking slots in teams. More often that not, it did not make for exciting viewership as far as the fans were concerned.

The justification for the increased foreigner quota seems to be that the I-League should be at par with the ISL but this is a case of the clubs driving the league into the ground. While it may or may not make for greater viewing with regard to the technical level of football, the connect that I-League clubs enjoy due to their local players gets withered away.

Of course, this fits snugly into the federation’s original plans, as revamped East Bengal and Mohun Bagan squads seem unlikely to slip up for the second time in a row, especially with BFC out of the picture.

The top two may have failed in their bids to enter the ISL this season, but it seems like a matter of time before the Kolkata duo enter the three-year old league, according to ISL insiders.

While Minerva Punjab, Chennai City and Gokulam FC have joined the I-League in the last two seasons, DSK Shivajians are the latest in a long line of clubs to pull out. Bharat FC, Pune FC, Rangdajied United, Royal Wahingdoh are just some of the clubs in that list.

The standard bearers, BFC shifting to the ISL, must give everyone an indication of where the power centre is currently located. The presence of the Indian Arrows and teams from Kerala and Manipur augur well but the viability of the league has not improved significantly.

As the seasons have progressed, it has become increasingly hard for optimists to argue that the I-League will sustain itself. Now in it’s 11th season, life seems to have come a full circle for the entity that took over from the defunct National Football League.

Once again, we must hit the 10-year reset button as the I-league is read its last rites. What should have been a follow-up of its most exciting season ever will become a test of survival unless one of the minnows manages to pull off another stunning victory. But will they? Don’t hold your breath.

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Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

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Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.


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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.