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I-League (2 nd Division): Marketing Sports Tourism in Kashmir

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Hi guys! It is football fever in the valley. While Premier division league has entered into the final round, top-notch I-league (2nd Division) preliminary round group A has started with the kick off on 20th of this month on the AstroTurf, when the local lads of Lone Star FC locked horns with Delhi Dynamos FC in the inaugural match. Lone Star FC is born tough! Lost it closely though. As I type this column, the final whistle on Real Kashmir FC Vs Pune City FC is already blown. The match has ended in a goalless draw (0-0).

League football is a hierarchy of leagues between consecutive levels of the hierarchy called pyramids. It is due to their tendency to split into an increasing number of regional divisions further down one descends, forming a pyramid. League systems of some sort are used in football in almost all countries across the globe. The movement up and down the pyramid happens through the process of promotion and relegation, in which teams from a lower league who finish atop the standings in their league can advance to the next level of the pyramid, while teams in higher leagues who finish last are expelled and move down the pyramid. In most association football pyramids, this process is automatic each year.

The English Football League (EFL), founded in 1888 as the Football League, is the oldest such competition in world football. It was the top-level football league in England from its foundation in the 19th century until 1992, when the top 22 clubs split away to form the English Premier League (EPL)

 

Presently, the top five global league tournaments include EPL (English Premier League), La-Liga (Spain), Serie-A (Italy), Bundesliga (Germany) and Ligue 1 (France).

In the Indian context, premier league tournaments include the I-league and the ISL (Indian Super League). I-league, officially known as Hero I-league, is presently contested by 10 clubs and it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the I-League 2nd Division as well as a system of direct-entry. The latest (2017-18) was the 11th edition of the I-league which was won by Minerva FC Punjab. Move down the Pyramid, I-League 2nd Division is the second-highest division in the Indian football league system after the I-League.

I-League 2nd Division was introduced for the 2008 season, having been previously known as the National Football League 2nd Division. The winners of the last edition of the tournament (2016-17) were NEROCA FC, a professional club based in Imphal, Manipur.

This I-league (2nd division) brings in eighteen teams to play high-quality football in the country. Eighteen teams comprising of seven ISL clubs’ reserve teams (Except ATK, Northeast United FC, Mumbai City FC) who will compete in the preliminary round are divided into three groups. The Preliminary round which kicked-off on March 16, 2018 will continue until May 15, 2018. Teams will play on a home and away basis within the group. The winners of each group plus the best second-placed team would qualify for the final round. However, if reserve teams of ISL clubs finish as winners or runners-up in any group, the position will be passed on to the next non-ISL team. Four teams will play at the central venue on a ‘single-leg’ league system which will run from May 21, 2018 to May 27, 2018 at the end which the winners would be promoted to the next tier of Indian Football i.e. I-League.

Here in the valley, we are all set to watch exciting football through I-league (2nd division) scheduled to be played between six teams in group A till 13th May, 2018. Group-A includes two professional clubs from the state including Real Kashmir FC (RKFC)  and Lone Star FC (LSFC), who will fight it out with outside state clubs including Hindustan FC, Delhi Dynamos FC (reserves), Delhi United FC, FC Pune City (reserves). Each team will play a total 10 matches including 5 home and 5 away matches, and the winner of the group will qualify for the final round.

According to Fahd Khan, LSFC Marketing & Publicity Manager, Lone Star FC has already done wonders in season 2014-15 when it emerged as the first runner up in the group stage. Moreover, in the season (2016-17), Lone Star FC striker Aakif Reshi emerged as the best goal scorer (Indian player) with aggregate 11 goals, only behind two foreign players.

Traditionally, the football season in the valley would start in April, but the introduction of I-league (2nd Division) complemented by the all-season astroturf of the J&K Sports Council has stretched the football season as a 12-month exercise, with the spectators witnessing high quality game throughout the year. It has also given local boys the much needed platform to compete with better teams, thereby enhancing the quality of football played by them.

As this leg of I-league (2nd division) would come to an end, there would be a lot to be happy about. A few hotels would have got business to do throughout the tournament, many outside players would have gone for site-seeing, shikara riding and of course, would have had wazwan, hareesa and nun chai (Chai Jaai hai na!), and bought dry fruits from Amin-Bin-Khaliq (ABK-the Dryfruit People).

I-league was not only about football – it was sports tourism man!

Tourism and sports each contribute a great deal to the economies of many countries globally. In present times, public policy makers and economists are busy reorienting the local economies to their core competence. And of course, tourism is our core competence.

From economic point of view, hosting of sports events like I-league here is a marriage of tourism and sports.  A combination of the two i.e. sport tourism has many economic benefits. Primarily, it creates economic growth through filled hotels, restaurants and retail establishments, helps in building new infrastructure facilities, provides youth training and spectator entertainment, creates exposure and enhances a positive image for the community, creates new product, a new tourism destination, maximizes facility use within the community, builds community relationships and strengthens corporate support. It also attracts high-yield visitors, especially repeaters meaning increased rate of tourism growth. Besides, marketing the capability of the community, it helps increase community support for sport and sport-events.

Although, hosting I-league over the last 3-4 years has been quite successful with the support of J&K Football Association and J&K Sports Council, yet to set a benchmark as a hosting state, there is ample scope for improvement. To mention, while AIFF guidelines require to have three showers in each dressing room, we are still managing with a single shower for two dressing rooms. Our astroturf is quite good, but the campus lacks a proper medical room, an ambulance etc. Under AIFF guidelines, we have to have 13-seater covered dug-outs but ours forcefully accommodates 11 – that too without a cover.

It is not only for the Government to pump in resources for development of the game of football, private sector participation would definitely boost it. If Reliance can sign a Rs. 700 crore deal for ISL, we have many business houses to spend lakhs, at least. After all, top-class club football is a profitable venture – for those who understand this business. Growing football craze across the country presents many opportunities to invest in football and ancillary business and sports tourism is waiting for its turn. One thing it needs is marketing – a balanced mix of 4Ps of Kotler. And events like I-league (2nd division) do it well!

 

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Ganguly backs Dhawan to shine at ICC World Cup

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Mumbai:There is not a bowler in the world that can stop Shikhar Dhawan when the opener is in determined mood and the left-hander will be crucial to Indias hopes at this years Cricket World Cup, former captain Sourav Ganguly has said.

Dhawan smashed 97 not out off 63 balls in Delhi Capitalsseven-wicket victory against Kolkata Knight Riders in Fridays Indian Premier League (IPL) contest at Eden Gardens, much to the delight of Ganguly, an advisor to the Capitals.

Captain Virat Kohli and his deputy Rohit Sharma are India`s batting mainstays in one-day cricket but Ganguly puts Dhawan, who has 16 centuries from 128 ODIs with a 93-plus strike rate, in the same league.

 

“The three best players in one-day cricket — Dhawan, Rohit, Virat,” Ganguly told the IPL website. “When he (Dhawan) gets set and gets in he`s unstoppable.

“All I expect from him is determination. When he is determined, no bowler in the world can stop him.”

Dhawan`s second fifty of this IPL season, which catapulted Delhi into the top four, augurs well for India ahead of the May 30 to July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.

Along with opening partner Rohit, the onus will be on Dhawan to give India strong starts in the tournament and the southpaw has performed well on English soil.

Named man of the series in their triumphant 2013 Champions Trophy campaign, Dhawan was also the tournament`s leading scorer four years later when India lost in the final to Pakistan.

“If he gets set, he takes the game away. This is how he plays for India,” Ganguly, who led India to the final of the 2003 World Cup, later told reporters. “He`s a class act.”

Two-time champions India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5.

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Olympique Lyon’s Champions League spot under threat after Nantes defeat

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London: Olympique Lyonnais` Champions League qualifying hopes were hit as they were beaten 2-1 at Nantes in Ligue 1.

Third-placed Lyon, who hold the final Champions League qualifying spot, were undone by Anthony Limbombes late free-kick after Martin Terrier had cancelled out Kalifa Coulibalys opener for Nantes.

Lyon are on 56 points with six games left, six ahead of fourth-placed St Etienne, who play their game in hand at home against Girondins de Bordeaux on Sunday.

 

It was Lyon`s third straight defeat in all competitions after they were knocked out of the French Cup semi-finals by Stade Rennes and lost at home to lowly Dijon in the league last weekend.

The result leaves an even bigger question mark over coach Bruno Genesio`s future, with the club set to make a decision on whether to extend his contract at the end of the season.

With Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay and Marcelo on the bench, Lyon got off to a bad start.

Coulibaly opened the scoring in the 11th minute after collecting a though ball from Majeed Waris.

Lyon were shaken by the hosts but weathered the storm and equalised one minute before the interval when Terrier curled a fine shot into the back of the net to finish off a counter-attack.

Limbombe earned Nantes victory seven minutes from fulltime with an inch-perfect free-kick, lifting the Canaries up to 15th in the table on 34 points.

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Defender Gomez sign two-year contract extension in East Bengal

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Mumbai: East Bengal fans will heave a huge sigh of relief after their star defender Borja Gomes decided to sign a contract extension with the club and not follow Jobby Justin to go out. The Kolkata-based club is in the process of becoming a part of the ISL next season with I-League’s future looking bleak.

East Bengal came agonizingly close to lift the I-League title yet again this season before Chennai City FC eventually won it as the Kolkata club finished second.And with I-League looking to either get dissolved or set to get demoted to the second division, it was important for East Bengal to finish high on the table.

However, that wasn’t enough for the club to retain their star striker Jobby Justin, who signed a pre-contract with two-time ISL champions ATK just after the I-League ended and the Super Cup was in its quarter-final stage. But, the club was quick to react after that setback and on Friday handed a two-year contract extension to Spanish defender Borja Gomez.

 

“East Bengal FC are pleased to announce the renewal of contract with Borja Gomez Perez for the next two seasons,” the club said in a statement.

“According to him, this is the best team and ‘fans are the best in India’,” the statement added.

The Madrid-born La-Liga star, who is nick-named as the ‘Senapati’, was one of the key members for the club last season and has been a motivator for the team both on and off the field. Gomez has previously played for Granada CF, Real Oviedo, Hercules CF, Real Murcia and more before East Bengal had signed him from UD Sanse in January last year.

East Bengal has already announced their bid for ISL in a board meeting and are currently waiting for the terms to get financially acceptable.

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