By R. Elahi
SRINAGAR: Srinagar-based football club, Hyderya Sports FC was on Monday selected by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as the only team from J&K to compete in the upcoming I-League 2021 Qualifiers.
The Qualifiers are set to take place at the Bangalore Football Stadium in Bengaluru, Karnataka, from October, 2021.
Ten teams, which include seven debutants in the competition, from as many states will participate in the Qualifiers.
The seven debutant football clubs include: Hyderya Sports FC (J&K), Corbett FC (Uttarakhand), Delhi FC (Delhi), Madan Maharaj FC (Madhya Pradesh), Rajasthan United FC (Rajasthan), Kerala United FC (Kerala), Ryntih SC (Meghalaya). Three teams that have played in the competition before include: ARA FC (Gujarat), Kenkre FC (Maharashtra), and FC Bengaluru United (Karnataka).
The I-League Qualifiers will mark the beginning of Indian football season. The AIFF has also revealed that the Qualifiers will take place within a centralised Bio-Bubble in Bengaluru.
“The clubs have all gone through the process of nomination by their respective state FAs, and have successfully submitted the required documents for the league and club licensing on time,” the AIFF said in a statement.
Hyderya Sports FC and Downtown Heroes FC were the two clubs nominated to play in the I-League Qualifiers from J&K by the Jammu & Kashmir Football Association (JKFA). The two nominations came owing to the teams’ second and third place finishes in the recently concluded JKFA Professional League.
JK Bank FC, the winners of the Professional League, weren’t nominated because of their inability to fulfil the club licensing criteria.
The nominated teams were selected by the AIFF based on their final league position or on sporting merit. Out of 29 teams nominated by various Football Associations, only ten received the nod to compete in the Qualifiers.
“The 10 participating teams will be split into two groups of five teams each. The Group Stage will be conducted in a round-robin format, with every team playing their rival clubs within their respective group once. The top two teams from each group will proceed to the Final Round, which will be played in another round-robin format with each of the four teams playing against each other once. The team that finishes at the top of the pile in the Final Round, will earn promotion to the Hero I-League 2021-22 season by virtue of winning the Hero I-League Qualifiers 2021,” the AIFF said in a statement.
“It’s great to kick-off the Indian Football domestic season once again with the Hero I-League Qualifiers. What makes the tournament all the more special this season is that we will have double the number of teams that played in the competition last year, and seven of the 10 teams are debutants,” said AIFF Leagues CEO, Sunando Dhar.
Hyderya Sports FC, also known as the Mountain Lions, will have to prove their mettle in the Qualifiers. With a talented squad of ballers, including their talismanic captain Shahnawaz Bashir, the Mountain Lions have set their aim high as they look to dominate J&K’s football scene for years to come.
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