NEW DELHI: The stage is set for the 12th edition of the Hero I-League, Indian club football's top tier league only in name, to kick off on Friday, October 26.
This season the I-League will see 11 teams from 10 states battling it out for top honours over a period of six months.
For the first time, the I-league will see a team from Jammu & Kashmir — Real Kashmir FC — make its debut.
Real Kashmir was recently promoted to the top flight after a stupendous run and title win in the second division league last season.
The I-League this year will be broadcast live & exclusive on the Star Sports Network and their digital platform Hotstar along with Reliance Jio TV.
The 12th edition retains the same prize money as was on offer last season – winners (Rs 10 million), runners-up (Rs 6 million), third place (Rs 4 million) and fourth place (Rs 2.5 million).
“We are very happy to welcome Real Kashmir FC to the league. The pan Indian presence of the League has been its unique feature in the last few editions. Furthermore, with the valley state entering top-flight football this season, the Hero I-League yet again stands true testimony to how it has played a critical role in spreading the game to all corners of the country,” said Praful Patel, president, All India Football Federation, at the league's official launch function here Tuesday.
“The Hero I-League has been scouting and nurturing current and future stars of Indian football over the years. This year we have 11 teams from 10 states fighting for the top honours in the 12th edition. I wish luck to all the participating teams,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das stated.
Commenting on the occasion Pawan Munjal, chairman, MD and CEO Hero MotoCorp said: “Hero is today one of the largest corporate promoters of sports, particularly football. Hero MotoCorp is the Title Sponsor of all the domestic football leagues in the country, in addition to being the Sponsor of the Indian football teams for both men and women across age groups. This is in keeping with our commitment to play the role of a catalyst in growing the game of football. I welcome the Real Kashmir FC team to the Hero I-league this year and look forward to seeing some high-quality football from all the participating clubs.”
The 11 teams from 10 states of the 12th Hero I-League are – Defending champions Minerva Punjab FC (Punjab), Aizawl FC (Mizoram), NEROCA FC (Manipur), Shillong Lajong FC (Meghalaya), Mohun Bagan & Quess East Bengal (West Bengal), Gokulam Kerala FC (Kerala), Churchill Brothers FC Goa (granted relegation immunity), Chennai City FC (Tamil Nadu), Real Kashmir FC (Jammu & Kashmir) and Indian Arrows (AIFF development team).
The first match will kick off on Friday, October 26, between Chennai City FC and Indian Arrows at Coimbatore from 17:00 hrs onwards.