By: Priyansu Ganguly
November 2014 rolled in with newer hopes for Indian Football. With all the paparazzi, glam, glitz and money involved in the Indian Super League panning over a month, you can’t help but restrict yourself for thoughts of a brighter, shinier Indian football.
With a nation where cricket is the godfather of all sports, in walks ISL, loaded with substance, to make a statement in the Indian sporting calendar.
But it would only be reasonable to make it free against comparisons and contrasting from other high profile footballing leagues of the world. The English Premier League, for example is backed up by rich footballing history in the United Nations as well as whooping sponsorship figures. The basic numbers and faces separating the two leagues,ISL and EPL may be plotted, although there emerges no reason for comparison, given the former’s state of inception.
Stars: Despite best efforts by sponsors and media alike, the ISL had failed to rope in worthwhile stars, despite Alessandro Del Piero, Luis Garcia, Robert Pires and Nicholas Anelka among others, lighting up stadiums with their charisma. With the growing popularity, this is slated to change, however reaching the star count and star status like the EPL is a big ask.
Lack of home quality: This is something that bothers organisers and fans alike. In a day when skill moves and tactical moves of some of the best teams of the world are on display, reaching out to a wide audience, thanks to the telecom revolution, Indian players don’t inspire much. And its visible on the pitch too, with touches of genius from the elite at times, Indian players fail to convert them or respond to them as expected, although the expectation might be asking for much, some might argue. In comparison, during the growing years of the EPL, and even today, players from the Kingdom make up the majority of the league teams and hence the national team.
Fan interest: As said earlier, in a country where cricket is considered a religion, football would have a rough job gaining public trust and viewing. But surprisingly, if facts and figures from ibnlive.com address to be believed, ISL racked in 364 million viewers in the last season with 7.7 Facebook and Twitter impressions, punching far above its weight, henceforth being more watched than football in France and Italy. Surprising and inspiring to say the least.
Lack of home sentiment: Back here in India, pundits would agree better, that whatever has a local sentimental angle to it, works more often than not. Lack of the same makes the ISL no more than another foreign league, this time without quality. In contrast, the EPL hosts majority of English players, even if there’s no direct rivalry (the days of the Gerrards and Giggs are gone), the perennial games have managed to keep their importance intact, thanks to the rich history and fan following.
Quality of Football: Despite foreign names and coaches and strategies, the ISL remains slow paced, less aggressive and less interesting to watch. Be it Indian players failing to react to swift precise movements or lack of individual brilliance, the game needs to change a lot for the good.
Overall, the ISL has had a dream start, one that was maybe not anticipated given the fake failure of the Hockey league and the Kabaddi Leagues along the lines of the IPL. I’d be a challenge to continue the popularity into the next seasons and bring in the moolah.
Desi Tadka: All leagues have their heroes. Like an Eden hazard from the Premier League, or a Leo Messi from the La Liga or a Zlatan in the Ligue 1. We too have our heroes standing sky-high in Season 1, I’d vote for Elano Bloomer from Chennaiyin FC to be the Best Find of the tournament while Arnab Ghosh, Defender, Atletico de Kolkata would be the Desi Tadka.
All the best to this league that has changed the lives of thousands footballers across the nation and raised hopes of crazy nationwide fans yet again.