I-League is India's premier tournament not ISL: FIFA

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File photo: Bengaluru FC, winners of this year's I-League
New Delhi, Oct 15: FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke Wednesday said the world football's parent body recognises the I-League as India's premier football competition.

He said there was no clash between the tournament and the inaugural Indian Super League (ISL) as their identities and objectives are entirely different from one another.

"For us (FIFA), I-League and not ISL is India's biggest football competition. ISL is a championship of eight franchises for two months. You cannot have two leagues in a country. Football doesn't work like that. I-League is most important for development of football in India," he said at a press conference here.

He stressed on differentiating the varied objectives of the two tournaments.

"ISL's main aim is to promote and provide attention to Indian football. Commitment of ISL franchises is to invest and develop infrastructure, to strengthen the grassroots programme of the sport."

He said FIFA and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) are working towards making football the next most followed sport in India after cricket.

"India, with a population of over 1.2 billion, is a big enough country to have a second sport that is followed widely after cricket and football is considerably big to occupy that second spot in the country," he said.

AIFF President Praful Patel said there was no question of downplaying the importance of I-league.

"Let us not confuse the issue. ISL is a tournament that brings attention to football. It is like a booster dose," he said, stressing on the fact that several ISL franchises have expressed their interest of proceeding to the I-League format.

"ISL is created with the aim of strengthening the I-League. For football to develop here, infrastructure and youth development is the most important aspect we need to focus on," he said.

IANS

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