Intro: In a cricket-crazy nation like India where other sports get a step-motherly treatment, will the Indian Super League be able to ignite the same passion for football as Indian Premier League?
Football was the second biggest sport in India. The Durand Cup football tournament started in 1888, but despite good beginning of having qualified in 1950, India never actually made it to Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup. Indian Super League (ISL) is another attempt at reviving the sport. How far will it boost the future of Indian Football remains to be seen?
India holds 150th rank in FIFA and it’s a dream for the Indian football fans to watch India play FIFA World Cup.
ISL is created with the objective to make football better in India but in the past similar attempt was made when I-League was launched to promote football but nothing happened.
In India, football has suffered over the years because of ignorance and little participation from big corporates but now corporates like PVP Ventures, Wadhawan Group, Bollywood stars and cricketers are putting a foot forward to purchase the franchises in ISL, with a base price of Rs 120 crore for a 10-year franchise ownership contract. Such involvement from major corporate and key businessmen is a much needed lift that football in India needed.
ISL worth Rs 700 crore will be played for two months. Major attraction will be the foreign players and the prize money of the league. The total prize money in ISL will be worth Rs 15 crore, with the winners getting Rs 8 crore- This prize money will be second only to IPL as far as sports competitions in India are concerned.
Being the first of its kind glamorous football league in India, it was launched in Mumbai on August 28, 2014 and is set to begin on October 12 to December 20 in eight Indian cities. The first edition of the ISL would be played by 8 franchises, namely Chennai (Chennai Titans), Kolkata (Atletico de Kolkata) , Delhi (Delhi Dynamos) , Pune (FC Pune City) , Guwahati (North East United), Kerala (Kerala Blasters), Mumbai (Mumbai City FC) and Goa (FC Goa) in the IPL style format. The competition will be sponsored by IMG-Reliance and Hero Motor Corp. All the franchises will have 14 domestic and 7 foreign players.
ISL heralds beginning of a long journey to bring India on football map. But people vary in their opinion regarding ISL, Syed Sahid Hakim, former FIFA referee, Olympian and ex-National football Coach told Organiser that, “Earlier also I-league was formed but what happened is not hidden. I feel I-League and ISL is a medium to make money from the game. If we are really concerned about football, the need of the hour is to revive domestic football. Our tournaments like the Durand Cup has been sidelined and shifted to Goa, it’s time to bring it back to Delhi.
Another thing is that the Indian Football team ought to be coached by an Indian coach. A foreign coach can never be as effective as a local coach. Golden era for the Indian Football was in 1950-1962, that time the Indian team was the best Asian Football team, and I remind you, that time India was playing under Indian Coach and won Gold medal at the Jakarta Asian Games. After 1962 Indian Football is witnessing downfall. If All India Football Federation (AIFF) really want to do good for Indian Football they need to work at the grass root level otherwise I-league and ISL will do no good for the Indian Football.”
It would be early to say that ISL will help the Indian Football team realise its dream of participating in FIFA World Cup. But one thing is certain; the league is an effort to increase popularity of football in the country.
Hope the well timed intentions will encourage football as a sport and will prevent it from landing itself into controversies of match fixing as it happened in IPL.
-Nishant Kumar Azad