The induction of legacy football clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal is set to add considerable impact to the Indian Super League this season.
The Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 season will kick off in Goa from November 20, the organisers of India’s premier football league announced on Wednesday. It will be the first major sporting event to be held in India since the COVID-enforced lockdown in March.
This will be the seventh season of the ISL - which started its journey as a ‘closed’ - no promotion or relegation - franchisee-based league in 2014.
ISL 2020-21 will be unique, with the entire tournament set to be played under a bio bubble in Goa as a precaution against COVID-19. Three venues - Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, the Tilak Maidan in Vasco, and the GMC Athletic Stadium in Bambolim – will host the matches.
Though most probably the entire tournament will be played under closed doors, there’s considerable hype regarding the new football season with the inclusion of traditional legacy clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.
Mohun Bagan, the 2019-20 I-League champions, have merged with defending champions ATK and will play in the ISL 2020-21 as ATK Mohun Bagan.
East Bengal, meanwhile, have been added as the 11th team in the competition and will compete as SC East Bengal under the coaching of former Liverpool icon Robbie Fowler.
A clash between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan is among the fiercest sporting rivalries in the world. Millions of fans cheer their favourite teams which are more than 100 years old and have a lot of history around them.
A new-look Mumbai City FC, which came under the flag of City Football Group – owners of Premier League giants Manchester City – midway last season, will be another big draw this season.
Bengaluru FC, Kerala Blasters FC, Odisha FC, Jamshedpur FC, NorthEast United FC, Chennaiyin FC, Hyderabad FC and FC Goa are the remaining eight teams which will compete in the tournament.
Despite being played at a single venue, the tournament format will remain the same. Each team will play the other 10 in a home and away format. The top four teams at the end of the league phase will move onto the playoff stage.
Currently, all 11 teams have reached Goa and are preparing for the tournament in a biosecure bubble. The full schedule and fixtures are yet to be announced.
Star Sports is the official broadcaster of the ISL and fans in India can watch the ISL 2020-21 live on Star Sports Network’s HD and SD TV channels. Online live streaming of the ISL will be available on Disney+ Hotstar and Jio TV.