New Delhi: The country’s top football tournament will kick off on September 21 with 14 teams in the fray, with a three-month gap provided for the IPL-style football league in January-March next year.
However, football fans in Shillong will have to wait for the much awaited Shillong I-League derby between Rangdajied United FC and Shillong Lajong FC.
According to the draft schedule, the two teams were set to face off on September 22 at the JN Stadium, Polo, but that has now been postponed.
The final fixtures were not released by the All India Football Federation on Thursday, although Shillong Lajong made it known on their Facebook page that they will travel to Goa to play Dempo SC on September 22.
Defending champions Churchill Brothers will take on Salgaocar FC in the opening match of the 26-round league at Duler in Goa.
The schedule was finalised in a meeting of representatives of all I-League clubs with AIFF officials here.
Pailan Arrows disbanded
The AIFF also announced that Pailan Arrows have been disbanded “due to major financial and infrastructural problems” and the I-League will thus be a 14-team affair this season.
It was also decided to drop the plan to hold the Federation Cup tournament in a home-and-away basis and instead to conduct it in the group and knockout format for this year.
The tournament will be held in January 1-12 next year. The venue is yet to be decided.
“All the clubs unanimously decided to revert to the previous format of Federation Cup only for the 2013-14 season after discussing in detail about the pros and cons of the new format and the cramped scheduling of I-League and Federation Cup calendar,” I-League Chief Executive Sunando Dhar said in a release.
“The meeting was a fruitful one. The fixtures were discussed in detail with all club representatives. Everyone was given a chance to voice their concerns and only after hearing them did we finalise the fixtures for the upcoming I-League season,” he said.
“Broadcasting timings were also discussed in detail in order to grab more eyeballs watching the I-League,” he added.
Defending champions East Bengal have been clubbed along with new I-League entrants Bengaluru FC, Sporting Clube de Goa and Rangdajied United in Group B in the Federation Cup.
Churchill Brothers, United SC (formerly Prayag United), Pune FC and a qualifier will form Group A while Salgaocar, Mohun Bagan, Mumbai FC and Shillong Lajong constitute Group C.
Dempo, Mohammedan Sporting, Mumbai Tigers and another qualifier are in Group D. (PTI)