I-League was launched in the year 2007 as a successor to National Football League and was the primary football league of India for 12 years before ISL gained that status making I-League the second division of Indian football where the club can get relegated but cannot be promoted to ISL if they win the I-League. The AIFF failure to take League to the top resulted in the league’s demise and when ISL was launched, the end came near for I-League.
I-league followed a double round-robin format where each team played the other twice a season, once home and once away with the team finishing at the top of the table being crowned as champion. But due to covid, the 20-21 season and the current 21-22 season were shortened and a new format was put in place.
In the new format, the league has been divided into two phases. In phase 1 which is known as the league phase, each of the 11 teams played each other only once a season thus playing a total of 10 matches in the league phase. After the end of the league phase, the top six teams were put in group a and the bottom five team in group B. The six group A team plays each other once and the team finishing at the top of the table is crowned as the I-League champion.
Like Group A, the 5 teams of group B play each other once with the team finishing at the bottom of the table being relegated to the I-League second division. In the current 21-22 season, two teams Indian Arrow and Sudeva are immune to relegation and if they finish at the bottom, the team above them will be relegated.
The league when launched had 10 teams which were expanded to 12 in the next season. In the current 21//1 season, below mentioned 11 teams are part of the league:
- Churchill Brothers FC Goa
- RoundGlass Punjab FC
- Real Kashmir FC
- Mohammedan SC
- Gokulam Kerala FC
- Tiddim Road Athletic Union
- Aizawl FC
- Sudeva Delhi FC
- Chennai City FC
- NEROCA FC
- Indian Arrows
The two biggest and most successful clubs of Indian Football, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have moved to Indian Super League due to the federation’s inability to sustain the league. Bengaluru FC was the first club that joined ISL from the I League.
Dempo is the most successful I League club with three titles to their name, with Mohun Bagan. Bengaluru FC and Churchill Brothers with 2 titles each following them. Aizawl FC, Round glass Punjab (Formerly Minerva ), Chennai City, and Gokulam Kerala are the other teams that lifted the I-League crown.
The match Kolkata derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal is the most viewed I-League match occupying each of the top 5 positions.
Ranti Martins who played in the League for 12 years is the all-time top scorer with 214 goals followed by fellow Nigerian, Odafa Onyeka Okolie with 179 goals. Yusif Yakubu with 147 goals.
Sunil Chettri is the League’s all-time top scorer Indian with 90 Goals followed by another Indian legend Bhaichung Bhutia with 89 goals.
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