Hyderabad FC to replace Pune City in ISL

ISL 2019-20 kicks off on 20 October, with Kerala Blasters hosting ATK. Deepak Malik / ISL / SPORTZPICS

Even as uncertainty looms over the immediate future of the I-League, the franchise-based Indian Super League (ISL) will have a new team based in Hyderabad for the 2019-20 season.

Hyderabad FC, ESPN understands, will be replacing FC Pune City, a club that has been beset by financial problems over the last couple of years and was reported to be actively considering a merger with Mumbai City FC. The Hyderabad club will be co-owned by Vijay Madduri, an IT entrepreneur, and Varun Tripuraneni, who has worked as Chief Operating Officer for both Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters in the ISL.

Hyderabad FC are expected to play their home matches at the Gachibowli Stadium, though no official confirmation has come through to that effect.

"It is a proud moment for me, to be co-owner of Hyderabad FC. Hyderabad is a city with a great football culture," Triupuraneni said. "I look forward to working with key stakeholders and building a strong foundation for the club, which will eventually contribute to the society and do the city proud. Our immediate task is to prepare for the new season."

Hyderabad FC will also be exempt from a two-year transfer ban that was imposed on Pune for having illegally approached Chennai City midfielder Nestor Gordillo, that would have come into effect starting January 2020. The ban would have carried over had the Hyderabad team taken over the existing franchise of Pune City.

Hyderabad has never had a team in the top division of the I-League, though Fateh Hyderabad appeared in the second division for three successive seasons between 2015 and 2018. They had a best finish of fourth in 2016-17.

Hyderabad City Police were a formidable team in domestic football in the 1950s, having won the Rovers Cup nine times and Durand Cup on a couple of occasions too. From Ahmed Khan to Shabbir Ali, the city has also produced some of the finest internationals to have put on the India jersey. The last major link between the city and Indian football was as a host city to the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008, which India won to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup in 2011 under then coach Bob Houghton, their first appearance at the finals of the continental competition since 1984.

The final, though, had to be shifted to Ambedkar Stadium because of unplayable ground conditions in Hyderabad due to incessant rains.