Air-India, Churchill Bros, Dempo, East Bengal, JCT, Mahindra United, Mohammedan Sporting, Mohun Bagan, Sporting Clube de Goa, Mumbai, Chirag United, and Vasco.
If anyone were to ask any Indian (Asian nation) as to what these names are I doubt most would know. These are the names of the football clubs in India's Football League, which is better known as I-League.
Fact is even I am not so aware of this league. Most of the time, football in India means the World Cup or the famous leagues like La Liga, Serie A, and yes the EPL. Then there is the national cricket team and the IPL.
The thing is these teams do not actually represent any state or district. At least the vast majority of them are teams financed by companies. This model is very similar to that followed in Japan. Some of the players continue to work for the companies after their retirement.
They have a steady income and get to play football. Many Indians including me keep talking about the nations we support in the world arena of soccer. Do we actually support football in our own nation?
I could actually state some of the political factors that hamper India's progress as a footballing nation but then that would be an endless debate. The I-League was started in 2007-08. It had replaced the National Football League which was on for at least 11 seasons.
A lot has been done to promote football in India and the I-League is the latest initiative. India's rankings in world football may be a joke to Indians themselves but we need to make a start somewhere. I wish and believe that slowly and steadily more people will start following the I-League seriously.
The above picture is that of the 2008-09 I-League finals fought between Mohammedan Sporting and Churchill Bros where the latter won 6-2. The very reason I write this is because sports articles in Indian sports sections are covering the IPL. In some corner you get to see the I-League.
It is high time. The I-League increases its visibility and scope so that it becomes a huge affair and not just another sport relinquished by a minority of the vast population.