How much of Indian Super League is helping?

While the debate of India’s premiere tournament between ISL and I league continuous to exist, a look at the big new branded league that is terming itself as game changer in Indian football, will suggest that it needs a lot of work, if its downwards slip has to be stopped.

Indian Super league

With BFC players back, ISL 3 needs to start delivering now

There is no doubt over the fact that ISL 3 has failed to live up to the expectation of previous two seasons with dwindling crowd numbers, reducing TRP while the match quality at the start of the Tournament has also been a little drab.

Also read: ISL 3: Vineeth’s late brace downs Chennaiyin

The Positives:

  1. Spread of the game

Sepp Blater, the former FIFA president, had once labeled us with his now famous quote that India is a ‘Sleeping Giant’ of world Football. It was true for a country of 1.2 billion people there wasn’t much market for football apart from Kolkata and Goa. Although there were fans in Kerala and Northeast, both regions never had a big club for themselves to boast of in equal terms with that of legacy clubs.

The Indian football faternity needed a jerk to wake up that sleeping giant and in 2014 it was provided with Indian Super League that offered to bring clubs from various cities to compete together, as a result Delhi, Northeast, Kerala, Chennai had their own club to cheer for, Football with help of aggressive marketing from IMG, Cricket stars and Bollywood’s involvements, had spread to various corner of the country also making a wave Internationally.

  1. Better paychecks for Players

Indian Football clubs had a notorious history of late payments to its players. With I league clubs suffering from money crunches due to lack of sponsors, players had to bear the brunt. But with ISL it changed, players received amounts that they had never even imagined. While inflow of money improved for players so did the facilities that came with it.

  1. Rubbing shoulders with high profile managers and players

For Indian fans and players’ alike, watching Del Piero, Elano, Luis Garcia, Anelka, Roberto Carlos, Zico gracing the Indian Football fraternity were always a distant dream that ISL managed to catch and bring closer. Game time among these great players helped immensely in building up player’s confidence and few finds like Sandesh Jhingan were the result of ISL.

Also Read: Under-18 I-League to kick-off from tomorrow

indian super league

Zico has repeatedly lamented the schedule and now about the incompetent refereeing

The Negatives:

  1. Poor Scheduling

While the league runs for just under three months from October to December, it still manages to cover more than 60 games with each team at least playing 14 games. This has resulted in player fatigues as most of the time is spent on moving from one state to another for games. Many players, managers have criticized the cramped up schedule.

  1. 6 Foreign player rule

One of the few ridiculous rules of ISL is the 6 foreign players in playing XI one. For a league that is named as Indian Super league, there are more Foreigners playing than Indians. FC Goa Coach Zico has even come out criticizing the rule several times while Northeast United Coach Nelo Vingada has also expressed desire to work with more Indians in starting eleven. The 6 Foreign—5 Indian rule for the eight ISL teams meant most of the Indian players are out of contract in the mean time until I league starts in January.

  1. Poor Merger solution and Disregard for other Indian clubs

One of the big reason that has increased the rift between I league and ISL is the complete disregard to I league clubs by the AIFF in the merger plan that was brought out in may this year. Creating a rift among fans of age old clubs mostly Kolkata which has resulted in ATK losing most of its fans.

Also Read: Sunday Special: Bengaluru FC – The Untold Journey

Indian Derbies

While East bengal and Mohan bagan have age-old histories, its hard to realise about the new derbies of ISL

The ‘One city One club’ rule meant ISL franchises from Kolkata, Mumbai, Goa and Northeast have sole cover over that region that already has a strong I league clubs within their ranks. The rule also meant killing of any budding chances of derby games while ISL does try to emphasis derby games by calling out Maharashtrian Derby for Mumbai City FC and FC Pune City games or the southern Derby for Chennaiyin vs. Kerala Blasters game, Nothing can replace the Ionic rivalry of Kolkata’s historical Derby games between Mohan Bagan and East Bengal.

Also Derbies exists due to creation of fan rifts or club ideology differences and not TV made announcements. A good game that gets banter among both sets of fans consistently will obliviously result in must-watch games for fans. In I league, despite being recently created, Bengaluru FC vs. Mohan Bagan or BFC vs. East Bengal will instantly draw crowds as a rivalry is booming between this three teams.

Also Read: For when “the Sleeping Giant” wakes up.


While ISL should be rightly credited for bringing casual football fans and the world to notice Indian football, it still needs a lot of work to sustain the interest. Bengaluru FC’s success in national and club level has shown that there were other methods of developing the game instead of a short cut method of creating a new short term league, adding Bollywood and cricket personalities and messing up the entire football fraternity including national team schedules.

AIFF, the football governing body of India should take responsibility for this mess and start out fresh considering both I league clubs and ISL franchises together and equal. There is no shortcut to success and both sides now need to be ready for some sacrifices for the betterment of Indian football.

ISL has definitely managed to rumble the ‘Sleeping Giant’ but it still needs to wake up and for that everybody has to come together.

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