Consequence of I-league, Eventuality of the ISL

ISL 2017

As we go into the fourth season of the Indian Super League – ISL, the Ambani’s have created a revolution in the football circuit of the country. 

ISL 2017

Photo by Arjun Singh / ISL / SPORTZPICS

Star players, packed stadiums, excellent broadcast quality, music, DJs, dance shows, fan Base etc, when was the last time we witnessed that in the I-League? There used to be a time when I was strongly against the concept of the ISL as I felt all it did was make virtually retired foreigners rich and deprive Indian players a club to play for.

For anyone who believes in a similar way, let me ask you…

  1. When was the last time the I-League had this sort of TV broadcast quality?
  2. When was the last time the I-League had a packed stadium, with the exception of the Kolkata derby?
  3. When was the last time a truly renowned world class player came to play in the I-League?

We might find faults by wondering why the AIFF did not allow I-League to grow, or why the Ambanis did not support the I-League.

The ISL has become a success in terms of viewership, quality of football and engagement only because there are rules set in place about how ISL clubs should operate; There is a framework with regards to a minimum budget, youth development, stadium arrangements, media provisions etc, which are the reason that makes the league the fourth most popular league in the world.

Gone are the days where we could only look forward to Novy Kapadia in the commentary box because the rest were below par. Gone are the days when we would only get to watch an obscure player from Brazil or Africa ply their trade in our own Premier League. Gone are the days where we would be deprived of watching matches because the TV station has decided to show highlights of another sport. Gone are the days when I would be one out of a 100 people in a stadium capacity worth 25,000.

A lot of people who have been following the Indian football circuit, which includes me, miss the days when we had the Kings of football like Bimal Ghosh, Armando Colaco, Sukhwinder Singh, Shabbir Ali, Subhash Bhowmick and Nayeemuddin at the helm of affairs. We miss the clashes between East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Dempo, Mahindra and the likes. We also miss watching Odafe, Ranti and Barreto tearing up the nets. However, we also MISSED the marketing and global reach that the ISL brings to the market, which is the primary cause why the I-League never took off. We cannot blame the AIFF for that because the clubs in the I-League, past and present, do not have the financial wherewithal to spend on global stars, top facilities for players and staff, marketing and advertising and even for a few, proper pitches!

This answers why the Ambanis possibly did not decide to control the I-League. Whatever be the case, they had the power to do so had they wanted.

Blasters get a draw against delhi

Malouda attempts a header as chopra looks on

I was of the opinion that the ISL is a retirement home for world renowned stars. Well why not? A veteran Anelka would do better than a lot of the foreign strikers who ply the trade in the I-League. They would also use their experience to improve the Indian players alongside them and this is clearly evident considering how Stephen Constantine has elevated the Indian national team’s ranking to the Top 100, a target that previous coaches like Bob Houghton and Wim Koevermans failed at. I don’t think it was necessarily because they were bad coaches but more to do with them not having a setup available to work from.

If one compares the current national squad with the Asian Cup 2011 squad, player by player then that squad was perhaps better than or at par with the current squad in terms of individual skills. In my opinion, a team of Subrata, Surkumar, Anwar, Gawli, Manju, Steven Dias, Pradeep, Climax, Renedy, Bhaichung and Sunil would perhaps beat the current squad in their time. They were very good players but did not have the Sharin to showcase their skills due to the unavailability of a platform like the ISL. A few players from that squad have been involved in the last 3 editions, but either when they have reached the pre retirement stage of their playing career or as backroom staff.

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The success of the Indian Super League has been backed by facts and stats too, like being the fourth most viewed league in the world, Kerala Blasters beating a few records with its attendance in a match.

We need to be unbiased in our views and realize that out of all the states/regions in the country, Kolkata and the North Eastern regions are the only football mad regions. Kerala and Goa come behind but still require a marketing effort to get the crowd to the stadium. Sadly, Mumbai and Delhi, the new major cities, are close to non existent in comparison to the regions just mentioned.

The Ambanis are not a fly-by-night group that they would disband the league overnight because they have a reputation to live up to. Hence, gauging by the progress Indian football has been making since the inception of the ISL, it is surely in safe hands!

If the I-League does come to a complete close, which I think is very likely to happen, then judging by numbers and performance rather than sentiments; We do not need to worry at all as the ISL is a 7 month tournament anyway.

Let’s support the ISL and watch it become an even greater force as time goes by!