I-League 2023-24 Preview: New Teams and Renewed Ambitions Promises a Season Like No Othernewsbhunt


Away from the limelight the unknown and upcoming will sweat it out across India for a chance at recognition as the new I-League season comes around.

The champions of last time, Punjab FC have taken their place in the elites of Indian football, in the Indian Super League, becoming the first cub to be promoted. Again, this time around, sides will strive for the chance at glory.

So what’s new?

The 2023-24 I-League will have two new teams, after five bids were declared winners, in the 13 vying for honours. Namdhari FC and Inter Kashi. Both these sides have religion and community at their core, taking Indian Football to uncharted places.

Delhi FC and Shillong Lajong are two promoted sides from I-League 2, replacing the relegated Mumbai Kenkre and Sudeva Delhi. Aizawl FC, Churchill Brothers, Gokulam Kerala, Mohammedan SC, Rajasthan FC, Real Kashmir, Sreenidi Deccan, along with NEROCA FC and TRAU FC will try their luck again.

The Challengers

Sreenidi Deccan, who had been leading the race till the last few laps, would be favorites to challenge again. Colombian David Castaneda will be heading the charge yet again with Faysal Shayesteh of Afghanistan. Brazilian defender Eli Sabia has joined their ranks and will aid their efforts with his ISL experience.

Gokulam Kerala, who won the I-League twice in the last three seasons, would want to win again and have roped in Edu Bedia, another ISL import, to help their cause. Last season’s spark Komron Tursunov too has joined along with a host of new faces from the first division.

Kolkata’s Mohammedan SC and Goa’s Churchill Brothers will be hoping to better their performances from the last few seasons. The storied history of these clubs demands so and their business ahead of the start of the campaign indicates intent.

Real Kashmir have been rather timid with their business but playing games at home will prove to be a boost again. The cold and snow have always favoured their chances.

Rajasthan United will not have that luxury as they will again play away at home, from Delhi last season to Deccan Arena in Hyderabad this time around.

The two Manipur-based sides, TRAU FC and NEROCA FC will see them play their home games in Kalyani, West Bengal, given the ethnic clashes back home.

Namdhari FC will bank on home conditions in Punjab, local support and players to prove themselves on the big stage. Inter Kashi, on the other hand, have opted to play in their home state and loan in multiple players from ISL sides and built a strong squad for their debut campaign.

Mizoram’s Aizwal are banking on stars from the local state league as well as proven I-League players along with their vociferous support to take them through yet again.

Marking their return to the I-League after a gap of four years will be Shillong Lajong FC and they are back with a host of new young players to challenge for the crown again.

Ranjit Bajaj, the erstwhile owner of Punjab FC, is back in the I-League with Delhi FC and he has Yan Law with him too. They will not be playing at home in the national capital but at the Namdhari Stadium in Ludhiana.

What to Look Forward to?

With so many strong past champions and some teams with even stronger ambitions, the promise of the limelight of ISL is alluring enough for most to give it one more try.

Fans have already chalked out marquee clashes, some even having nothing to do with what is happening on the pitch. The distinct origins and inspirations behind the formations of some of the sides this season has inevitably given a quasi-religious tinge to the affair, harking back to yesteryears. Casual fans may be inclined to pay attention but the action on the football pitch is what will endure.


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