Football in India is not popular as Cricket, Hockey, Tennis or even Badminton. In the Asian games 2014, India were knocked out of the first round itself. We lost to UAE 5-0 and then to Jordan 2-0. The Indian Super League which is professional football league that began on the 12th of October has got off to a great start may be a boon to develop a national team of worth. In Indian Super League there are 8 teams from various parts of the country.
These teams are franchises from Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, North East India, Kerala and Goa. The Bollywood stars and popular cricketers who love this game were bidders of different teams. Finally among the owners noted celebrities are Sachin Tendulkar(Kerala Blaster), Sourav Ganguly(Kolkata), Virat Kohli(Goa), John Abraham(North East United), Abhishek Bacchan(Mumbai), MS Dhoni(Chennai co-owner).
So far in the two weeks, we have seen Bollywood stars and cricketers coming to support their teams and also the football. The local crowds have the double benefit of supporting their teams in respective cities and having fun watching their favorite Bollywood and Cricket stars. The opening ceremony was a glittering affair as the Bollywood stars performed and entertained the crowd.
ISL was seen as an opportunity for the Indian footballers to play shoulder to shoulder with international players like Alessandro Del Piero, Elano, Mikaël Silvestre and Bernard Mendy. It was considered an opportunity to learn the finer aspects of football playing skills. However most times, international players are in the limelight. Only one Indian has scored the goal so far. The other goals are scored by foreign players. Only yesterday Steven Dias has hit the media headlines for his contribution in the game between Delhi and Chennai.
As compared to this in England, Spain, Germany where football is popular sport and attracts the crowd in a big way. The English Premier League has been going on since 1992. Barclays Premier League going on simultaneously with ISL drawing coverage in both print and electronic media is far exceeding the ISL coverage. The famous clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal are the famous clubs in Barclays Premier League(BPL). The other famous clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona have a lot fan following in India. From these clubs, famous players like Messi, Ronaldo play for their respective club and countries in at the top level making the game very popular.
We have different clubs in India like Mohan Bagan, East Bengal but the game is popular only in cities particularly in East and Goa. The quality of football in this tournament is struggling to draw the attention of media. As far as the Indian context is concerned only few players like Sunil Chettri, Bhaichung Bhutia are known and have done well for India in tournaments like Nehru Cup.
ISL may help to develop a pool of players of domestic players to get ready for international tournaments. Though it will take time to build an Indian national team for international tournaments the Indian Super League is moral boosting effort to make football a popular game. Indian footballers owe to VIP’s involved in the ISL.