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The intriguing story of ISL: Will it be the game changer for Indian Football?

Would you believe if someone tells you that last year ISL had more viewership than FIFA World cup 2014? How would you react to the fact that ISL was the fourth largest league by attendance in stadium?  Also, Arsene Wenger has shown hope in ISL doing well. So is everything honky dory for the league which has shown so much promise in its inaugural two years? Is ISL the answer to all the problems which have plagued Indian football for decades?

Crowd cheer during an ISL match

Here are a few reasons why ISL is the long awaited platform for Indian football –

Popularizing the sport we all love

As mentioned previously the first year average attendance was fourth largest in the world which has grown more than 12% this year for the matches played till 20 Nov. Presence of celebrities as promoters has certainly helped in boosting the viewership statistics.

Celebrities have supported ISL and helped in attracting viewers

Professionalism

Following the IPL pattern the franchisee have shown a lot of professionalism in organizing and managing their teams. Seasoned coaches and improvement in infrastructure would help in developing the quality of the game.

Players pose after ISL auction

Exposure & Big Names

Indian domestic players when given a chance to play in front of huge crowds in the same teams as Roberto Carlos, Elano, Alessandro Del Piero, Lucio among others will certainly gain the much needed exposure and will raise their game. Romeo Fernandez from Goa is being scouted by a Brazilian Club after the first season.

Neeta Ambani at ISL press conference
8 Marquee players for 2015 season

Partnerships with Foreign Clubs

Atletico de Kolkata trains with Atletico Madrid at their facilities. Many other teams have had their pre-season preparations with prominent clubs in Italy, Dubai and other footballing cities.

Sourav ganguly-promoter of Atletico de Kolkata announces training with Atletico Madrid
Atletico de Kolkata announces that the club would train with Atletico Madrid in Spain

Grass root Programs

It is mandatory for the clubs to run grass root level programs to nurture budding local talents and providing them the right facilities and infrastructure to train.

 But are these steps enough or there is much more to be done? Let’s see what’s not so good about the league.

Older players

It’s being feared that getting players at 35, who would not have a permanent stint with the ISL, would not do any good to the Indian football rather than just delaying their retirement and using big names to create marketing hype.

Anelka
Anelka was rejected to join Algerian Club after being termed as ‘too old’

Short format

All major football leagues follow a longer format for the season where the players train and play matches over weekends. ISL on the other hand is a compact version with three months of glitz and daily matches which leaves the players burned out.

No comprehensive feeder or grass root program

The current top down approach of investing and marketing of clubs wouldn’t work unless it attracts the right talent. Current mandatory grass root programs are not comprehensive and more superficial in nature. All famous leagues around the world have comprehensive lower division leagues which feed players at the top level.

Grass root programs initiated by the ISL franchisees

No new infrastructure or stadiums

Almost all clubs in English, Spanish or other leagues either own stadiums or contribute significantly in their development. Such infrastructure is needed for proper coaching, grass root programs, providing facilities to the players. But, ISL follows lease system where it uses existing stadiums on lease for few months. This certainly impedes the effectiveness of their training programs.

A cricket stadium being prepared for hosting of ISL matches

I-league overshadowed

The first structured football league in India, I- league which has better format and is organized in a manner to develop the game has lacked behind due to lack of marketing and interest from the only-interested-in-money-making corporates.

Comparison of the viewership of the ISL and I-League

National team’s schedule affected

India recently lost to Oman as the players flew one day before the match day to Dubai, between the ISL season. The national team has played lesser friendly international games and all this has resulted in a further dip in the international ranking from 154 in 2013 to 172 currently.

Indian football players dejected after a loss

While some optimists feel ISL would certainly enhance the level of Football in India others are of opinion that ISL is nothing but a money making show for corporate behemoths like IMG & Reliance and would do no good to the sport. The jury is still out but we certainly hope the best for Indian football and would like the hopes and dreams of Indian fans getting realized one day. For now, enjoy the season, keep loving the game and “Come on India… Let’s Football“!!

Keep calm and play football meme

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