Chennai, January 12: If you consider the I League as a Bollywood movie, then Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are probably the biggest superstars who ruled the industry like the three Khans, before moving on.
Before this edition of I League, there were two big twists in the story. First, Indian Super League (ISL) club Atletico De Kolkata decided to merge with Mohun Bagan -- to form ATK Mohun Bagan and confirmed their participation in the ISL.
That was followed by SC East Bengal's foray into the ISL after they could rope in a big sponsor with even West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee coming into the picture.
With two of the biggest pillars deciding to move on in search of greener pastures, where does it leave the I League and its other participants?
The I League has slowly lost its identity, especially with the advent of ISL in 2013. The ISL has made a deal that receives better television coverage, clubs get more money to buy new foreign and local talent around and more Asian Football Confederation (AFC) slots (ISL - 2, I-League - 1).
The I League officially lost its identity as the top tier of Indian football when the AFC announced the changes. This, combined with not so good broadcasting deals that have led to sub-par broadcasting, meant fans had not even a handful of reasons to watch the I League.
However, not everything has been lost. The I League winner still gets a direct entry into the AFC Cup whereas the ISL play-off winner needs to get through the qualifiers first. The ISL winners, however gets a direct berth in the competition.
From the new season, the I League will not be featuring their two biggest clubs. In a league that had been dominated by East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, be it on or off the field, it now creates an opportunity for other teams like Chennai City FC and Gokulam FC Kerala to leave make a of their own.