CHENNAI: Fixtures for the upcoming Indian Super League season are out and there are three uninvited guests! Some of the league’s top domestic players will miss parts of the cash-rich tournament as three World Cup Qualifying games are clashing with the calendar unveiled on Friday.
The qualifiers include India’s away matches against Turkmenistan and Iran on October 8 and 13, respectively, and a home clash against Guam on November 12. Since even Sunil Chhetri & Co will be entering IMG-Reliance’s league this year, Stephen Constantine’s India squad is likely to be made up fully of ISL players. This means various franchises will miss some of their top domestic players for a couple of weeks.
Both franchises and IMG-Reliance officials were quick to assuage fears that Constantine might have a problem in September. “We have to release the players and that is something we have to live with,” said Kerala Blasters secretary Rajive Kamineni. “Last year, we had to release a couple of players for Asian Games. Obviously this will be bad for us since players leaving will be some of the best domestic players, but we are happy to do so, if it means we have a stronger Indian team,” he added.
Sources close to FC Goa concurred with the view. “We have to release the players. FIFA rules state that for qualifiers, clubs have to release players 48 hours before a match if it is being held on the same continent or 72 hours before the match if it is held on another continent. This applies regardless of whether you are FC Goa or Manchester United.”
IMG-Reliance officials also made it clear that the various franchises had been informed beforehand of the possibility of some players missing games.
“Each club has been made aware of this. They will have to release players four days before each qualifier. This means a player selected for the national team will join up on October 4 or 5. He will then stay with the national team until the match on October 13 is over. He will then miss four more days in November.”
Opener in Chennai
After witnessing significant turnouts for most matches last year, Chennai will host the opening encounter of the upcoming season.
Chennaiyin FC will take on Atletico de Kolkata at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on October 3.
After the defending champions, Marco Materazzi’s men will take on Delhi Dynamos and FC Goa in the next two matches.
The league will have nine extra matchdays this year. In a departure from last season, the calendar has no double headers, with all matches kicking off at a uniform time of 7 pm.