Of the 20 Nigerians figuring for various clubs in the I-League soccer tournament 2012-13, Prayag United’s Ranti Martins Soleye tops the goal-scoring charts with 14 goals in 13 outings. When Ranti turned out for Dempo, he was the top scorer too on previous occasions. The man from Lagos, Nigeria, topped the tally in 2006 and 2010 when turning for Dempo and is all set to repeat those splendid efforts for Prayag, whether or not his team emerges as the champion.
The suspension of Mohun Bagan has once again thrown the beleaguered league into a fresh turmoil, at least with regard to the number of teams which could be in the championship from next season. The AIFF will now have to promote three teams or else relegate only one more along with Bagan to maintain the number at 14.
Of course all is not over for Bagan as they have the right to appeal and the AIFF’s executive committee will take the final decision. The number of teams the format has changed frequently even since the league was league was launched with much fanfare in 1996-97 as the National Football League. It was renamed as the I-League from the 2004 season onwards. In fact, this itself was the original name as drafted by the then AIFF general secretary P P Lakshmanan of Kannur. But petty politics saw the name being changed and then rechanged to what was proposed originally.
In any case, in the 78 games played so far, 240 goals have been scored at an average of 3.08 for every match. Often it revolved around a little more than two for each game but then this seasons has seen some high-scoring games and consequently, the average has gone up. The tournament is just around the halfway mark and a lot more is still in store. With not a single team from the south or north in the fray, following the championship has now become an arduous task for followers of the game as interest levels can always dip without a home team.
Nevertheless, Goa’s Dempo are on top with 29 points from 13 games and Pune FC are a creditable second with 26 points from 12 outings as they breathe down Dempo’s neck for eventual honours. Pune stunned Dempo 5-1 and then defeated Shillong Lajong and Prayag United and Salgaocar for four wins on the trot to leap frog to the second slot. Churchill Brothers, East Bengal and Mumbai FC occupy the next three slots all within two to four points of each other.
In official terms, Bagan are now last with Baichung Bhutia’s United Sikkim just above them. Surprisingly, former champions Salgaocar are just above the Sikkim team.