The much awaited Indian Super League has started and it has indeed started with a bang. The opening ceremony was really a spell bounding experience, followed by a superb display of football by Atlético de Kolkata, topped by two world class goals and a classic counter attacking goal.
As we have often seen, India is a country of extremes. Here people tend to get completely polarized on any matter- be it politics or sports or religion. On social networking sites I have come across posts like – Whether India will play the FIFA World Cup in 2022 as an after effect of ISL to How ISL is a complete farce and glamour blitz minus the sport and another money spinning machine like the IPL.
Well, it’s too early to reach any conclusion but one thing which is very sure is that since the inception of the Indian Super League, we have observed a rise in the popularity in the name of football in the country especially among the youths. To make this league a success, it is very important that popular names and celebrities of the countries are associated with it just like what we have seen in the success of IPL. It will be entirely wrong if we expect that after just one season of ISL that we start our meteoric rise in FIFA rankings. I am supporting ISL, because it has created the buzz around local football. At least big corporate guns are investing money in a sport other than cricket. Let it successfully run for a few seasons, then we can judge the pros and cons of it.
And people complaining about ageing stars, I would like to mention that bringing even Messi or Ronaldo would have done no magic either if the rest of the squad remains the same. It would be more beneficial if ISL ropes in exciting young foreigners. Indian players playing with them, practicing with them under the likes of Zico will do more good than bad. Atleast the players can get enriched from their foreign counterparts’ high experiences, ideas and trying to learn a little bit of their playing style can make them better only. The money in ISL, more widespread media coverage as ISL featured in the sports pages of DailyMail, BBC etc, glamour around the sport will definitely help to create a scenario where not only the boys from lower middle class families will take up football as a career option, but also we will see that boys with good potential won’t be just playing for college teams for fun and eventually take up another job, rather utilize their potential and chase their passion of playing football.
Now, the question arises as to why the need for a new league was felt, when there is already a professional league in the country. From sources, I have heard that AIFF & IMG-Reliance was ready to revolutionize the I-league, but the clubs were not ready to tweak their age old rules or traditions to garner more investment. It’s safe to say that AIFF has been a big failure in marketing the I-league. So where we have promo shows for each of the ISL teams on Star Sports, often important I-league matches are not telecasted on the other hand. It just fails to generate any interest among today’s teenagers who are engrossed in EPL, La Liga or UEFA Champions League on the internet or TV.
It could not create a footballing culture in many parts of the country. There is no club representing the Northern India, there used to be FC Kochi which has given us Vijayan, but apart from the last year no team from the southern India was present as well. It’s not that people are not interested in football there. If ISL creates the buzz around football with the help of the yesteryear stars, cricketing icons and Bollywood stars, it encourages more kids to take up the game, more parents to encourage their kids to play football and more sponsors to invest in it then it’s definitely good. Football lovers in India spend time in watching European Leagues like EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga and if we have one of our own leagues then it will definitely help the game of football in our country.
Lastly, one actually doesn’t have to pay to be optimistic. Pessimistic people (or as they call themselves as ‘Realists’) should realize that whether ISL can do any good is a debatable issue. But there is no scope for debate about the fact that their skeptic bitter hipster-like Facebook posts, opposing what is popular, won’t do any good to anyone. Seriously, we can’t go any lower from where we already are. So, why don’t we just hope that one day the glorious era of 1950-62 will be back when we used to be an Asian superpower? Playing the World cup is definitely a dream every Indian has but I, for one will be quite satisfied if I see the Blue Tigers reaching the Semi Final stage of the Asia cup and giving the likes of Japan, South Korea a run for their money.
So here’s hoping, and being optimistic, that the Indian Super League (ISL) launches Indian Football to the next level in the years to come and soon propagating in a big name in the Football world.