NEW DELHI: Indian captain Baichung Bhutia’s team United Sikkim FC, Sporting Clube-de-Goa and Shillong Lajong FC will be among the 21 teams participating in the Division 2 preliminary round matches of the I-League which is set to kick-off across the country in the middle of next month. The 21 teams will be split into three groups of seven in the preliminary stage. The final round of the Division 2 I-League would be held in the Meghalaya capital Shillong.
Five teams from Kerala and four from Meghalaya including Shillong Lajong FC, who were relegated from the first division last year, will feature in the league.
Mohammedan Sporting, Southern Samity and Techno Aryan are the three sides from West Bengal. Goa has two teams, apart from Sporting Clube-de-Goa. Sikkim also has another team in Denzong Boys while Manipur and Assam will be represented by NISA and Gauhati Town Club respectively.
Overall there are five clubs from Kerala, four clubs from Meghalaya, three each from Kolkata and Goa, two each from Mumbai and Sikkim plus one each from Manipur and Assam. Surprisingly, clubs who have been regulars in the 2.Division over the last few years like Amity United FC, Oil India Limited and others are not part of the league.
In case of Bhutia, he is unlikely to play for United Sikkim FC as he is yet to fully recover from his hamstring injury but his national teammate Renedy Singh has confirmed playing for the side. Indian team goal-keeping coach Marcus Pacheco is likely to be roped in as coach of the side, which will be based at Paljor Stadium in Gangtok.
How many clubs will go up is unknown at the moment as it depends on how many clubs get through the AFC Club Licencing and what size league the AIFF and IMG-Reliance will want next season as the I-League is supposed to go fully professional.
The top two teams from the second division will be promoted to the I-League first division for 2011-12 season.
The participating clubs:
Royal Wahingdoh SC, Shillong (Meghalaya); Langsning Sports Club, Shillong (Meghalaya); Ar-Hima Football Club, Shillong (Meghalaya); Shillong Lajong FC (Meghalaya); PIFA, Mumbai (Maharashtra); Kenkre Football Academy, Mumbai (Maharashtra); Southern Samity, Kolkata (West Bengal); Techno Aryan Club, Kolkata (West Bengal); Mohammedan Sporting Club, Kolkata (West Bengal); Guwahati Town Club (Assam); Vasco Sports Club (Goa); Sporting Clube de Goa (Goa); Sesa Football Academy (Goa); Josco FC, Cochin (Kerala); Chandni FC, Kozhikode (Kerala); Eagles FC, Cochin (Kerala); Golden Threads, Cochin (Kerala); Malabar United FC, Kozhikode (Kerala); United Sikkim FC, Gangtok (Sikkim); Denzong Boys, Gangtok (Sikkim); NISA, Imphal (Manipur)