What makes Hero ISL 2019-20 just a tad extra special
Since its inception back in 2014, the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) has been at the heart of the Indian footballing landscape, growing and transforming each year in a bid to be bigger and better. Over the last five seasons, the competition has provided some truly memorable moments for fans and each campaign, for one reason or another, holds a special place.
With the 2019-20 season right around the corner, fans can expect more of the riveting football action, nail-biting title race and goals they have come to love so much, and needless to say, some more memories will be made. But even before the ball is kicked, Hero ISL 2019-20 promises to be a just a little extra special. Here's why.
Title of the official premier league of India
According to the latest roadmap for Indian football drawn up by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), working closely with other major stakeholders in the game in the country, the Hero ISL is to be recognised as India's premier footballing competition from the upcoming season. Already the most coveted domestic footballing trophy in the country, the official tag will definitely make it a little more special.
AFC Champions League slot up for grabs
The above roadmap also recommends that starting this season, the Hero ISL champions will be granted a slot in the AFC Champions League play-offs - the continent's top club tournament. So, there's a lot more to winning the Hero ISL than the title itself, with the teams vying for the honour of representing the country on the grandest stage in Asia.
Hyderabad FC and Odisha FC in the fray
Hyderabad FC and Odisha FC's inclusion in the Hero ISL from the 2019-20 season will see not only just two teams enter the fray but also the integration of two sets of fanbases, more diverse fan cultures, amongst other positives. While Hyderabad represents a footballing powerhouse from yesteryears ready to take centre stage again after a long slumber, for Odisha, it symbolizes the progress of a state with unrivalled diligence to mark its name in the country's sporting map.
The 1000-goal landmark
The Hero ISL goal counter currently stands at 975 and the 25th goal of Hero ISL 2019-20 will mark the very special 1000-goal milestone in the competition's history. It's not every season that a league reaches the 1000-goal mark and the anticipation for the moment of truth will be high. Which team and which player will have the honour? Only time will tell. However this won’t be the only landmark fans can expect from the season ahead.
An all-star assembly of attacking players
While most of Hero ISL's proven attacking juggernauts like Ferran Corominas, Sunil Chhetri, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Modou Sougou, Marcelo Pereira, and others, are set to return to light up the stage again, all the teams have strengthened considerably in their respective striking departments. Ghanaian icon Asamoah Gyan (NorthEast United FC), former A-League Golden Boot winners Roy Krishna (ATK) and Bobo (Hyderabad FC), former CAF Champions League winner Amine Chermiti (Mumbai City FC), Aridane Santana (Odisha FC), Sergio Castel (Jamshedpur FC), David Williams (ATK), are just some of the names on the list. It's a grand assemblage of attacking stars and fans can expect plenty of goals to go with it.
A pathway to the national team for Indian youngsters
While the Hero ISL, over the last five seasons, have been the proving ground for players to get into the national team, the stakes are higher this season. India head coach Igor Stimac is in the process of building up the Blue Tigers for the future and made it clear that he is on the lookout for new talents across the board and will have a close eye on Hero ISL 2019-20 to cherrypick his options. "On my sheet, I have 40 players and the Hero ISL starts on 20th October. The door is open for anyone with an Indian passport. I have my eyes on the schedule. I have identified games where I will go personally to monitor players who are not on the list. Our aim is to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup continuously and the 2026 World Cup," the Croat had declared in a recent media interaction.
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Check out the full Hero ISL 2019-20 fixtures list here.