For supporters and fans of Indian football, the last several months have been a joy for all the good reasons. Leaving aside India’s performances in global tournaments and its rankings, there are portends that our football administration is taking steps to get Indian soccer inch up to global levels. First India getting the honour to host the U-17 World Cup In 2017, then the I-league has seen its fi rst debutant winner in the Bengaluru Football club. And now comes the big one, the announcement of the multimillion dollar football league in India, aka the “Indian Super League.” With ISL, the AIFF is apparently seeking to revolutionisefootball in the country. Organisers of the much-anticipated ‘Indian Super League’ have unveiled eight franchises recently, with cricket legends, Bollywood stars and a host of corporate biggies vying to own these teams. Th e bid winners for the eight franchises of the league, scheduled to be held in September-November, were announced by organisers IMG-Reliance, aft er evaluation of the What with the FIFA World Cup having enkindled the football fever in India, with millions burning midnight oil avidly glued to the idiot box, we felt it is time we take a look at the Indian soccer scene. While India was tagged as a sleeping giant of world football in 2007, the game seems to have gone into a coma since then rather than waking up from this slumber. But seemingly the time has come to awaken from this comatose state and really be the giant it can become. Anshul Gupta reports:
AIFF president Praful Patel calls it the most exciting period in the history of Indian football. “No period in India’s long and proud history in football is more exciting than today. Th is day will go down in memory as a special day for Indian football as eight-high profi le celebrities like Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Ranbir Kapoor and corporates are being introduced into the sport through the Indian Super League. With IMG Reliance & Star providing the perfect foundation, the League has become an unstoppable force which would change Indian football,” Patel avers, further adding: “I hope the grassroots obligations of the franchises gives a huge push to the development of the game. Along with the world class infrastructure that is being created for the Under 17 FIFA World Cup, and AIFF’s expression of interest to host 2015 and 2016 FIFA Club World Cups, Indian football is defi nitely turning a new leaf in its history.”
Sachin Tendulkar too has a similar take on the same: “Th e Indian Super League presents a great opportunity to develop a platform for the youngsters to learn and enhance their talent to develop into outstanding players. With the Kochi club, we will strive to ‘score our goals’ and play a part in developing the game of football across the country.” So let’s look at what ISL brings to the table: MONEY INTO THE GAME In essence, the arrival of ISL reiterates the triumph of the idea of sport as a commercial venture that has come into existence in India with the successful idea of the billion dollar cricketing baby IPL, an endeavour that was also fl oated by IMG. Th is model is all about making franchises getting bids from owners and marketing the clubs, selling telecast rights, making gate money via ticket selling and sponsorships. Th is idea will rejig the fortunes of football as a game, as well as serve as an avenue for earning by the oh-not-too-well-paid pro footballers. Th e earnings and ‘gainful-employment’ for a wide range of ‘players’ across various sectors like media, advertising, printing, suppliers, equipment manufacturers etc., in the economic spectrum, and action and excitement for spectator Indians …
MUCH NEEDED INTERNATIONAL EXPOSURE IN INDIAN FOOTBALL
What Indian football lacks is the panache of South America, the technology, and the eff ervascent energy and meticulousness of Europe. ISL will get to start with at least the infl ux of European football, the infusion of superior technical expertise and management systems that investors like current La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid will be a boon to the league. Th e money put in by the franchises will help in getting better training facilities, better coaches, and better training standards. Playing with a superior level of foreign professionals will also help our local lads to improve their game even though the iconic footballers that the franchises will hire may be past their prime (each franchise is expected to register a minimum 22 players for the two-month aff air out of which 10 will be foreigners and fi ve can be fi elded in the playing XI). Th e development work that the franchises are longing to do for ISL, if it actually translates into reality, will do immense good to Indian football in the long-run. Iconic players like Th ierry Henry, Robert Pires, Hernan Crespo, Dwight Yorke, Louis Saha etc., have been hired by diff erent franchises, these players are all world class in their own right and already have a huge fan base owing to immense popularity of the English Premier League in India. Th e funda is simple: the bigger the names, the more hoopla will the ISL generate, and the more eager will crowds be to swell the stadiums. Th e inaugural season may have icons beyond their primes but once ISL becomes a marketable commodity, the day wont be far when you will see the best in the world playing in our own backyards.