New Delhi, Sept 7 (PTI) The Indian Super League schedule was announced on Thursday amid doubts over the release of a few India players by clubs for the Asian Games later this month.
The league clashes with the Hangzhou Asian Games where the football competition begins on September 19 and continues till October 7.
The ISL 2023-24 kicks off on September 21 with the match between Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru FC in Kochi.
League organisers FSDL announced the fixtures of the first half of the ISL till December 29. The 12-team ISL, now the country’s top-tier league, will be in its 10th edition.
The 22-member Indian men’s squad for the Asian Games has players from 10 ISL clubs and it is learnt that some of them are reluctant to release all their players.
Out of the 22 players named in the squad, six are from Bengaluru FC, three from Mumbai City FC, while FC Goa, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Odisha FC and Kerala Blasters have two each.
Newly-promoted Punjab FC, Chennaiyin FC and Hyderabad FC have one each.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) Secretary General Shaji Prabhakaran had on Monday written to the 10 ISL clubs to release their players selected for the Asian Games, keeping the “national interest in mind”.
It is, however, not mandatary for the clubs to release players as the Asian Games do not fall in any FIFA international match window. The last such window before the Asian Games is from September 4 to 12.
League Shield winners Mumbai City FC, who will feature in the AFC Champions League (ACL) later this year, will begin their campaign on September 24 against NorthEast United in Guwahati.
The ISL League Shield winners will, however, not get a berth in the ACL, the continent’s top-tier club competition, from 2024 onwards. After a recent restructuring, Indian clubs will no longer get an ACL berth but will be given spots in AFC Cup, the second-tier league in Asia.
ISL knock-out champions Mohun Bagan Super Giant of Kolkata face debutants Punjab FC, who were promoted this season after winning the I-League, at home on September 23. The first Kolkata derby of the season between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will be played on October 28.
The system of I-League winners getting promotion to the ISL begins this season.
No matches are being scheduled during the FIFA international break windows of October 9-17 and November 13 to 21.
The current ISL schedule is for up to the 12th round matches and the fixtures of the second phase of the home-and-away format league will be announced later.
Earlier in the day, FSDL said that the ISL schedule was made after extensive consultations with all stakeholders, including the AIFF.
“All stakeholders have formally agreed to the schedule’s dates and structure, which incorporates necessary breaks to accommodate FIFA windows and AFC Asian Cup (in January 2024),” said a spokesperson of the FSDL.
“Given the packed football calendar, the schedule has been designed to consider all these factors leaving no scope of postponement of the tournament at this stage.”
The matches will start at 8pm. On double-header days, the first match will start at 5:30pm.