The third season of Indian Super League (ISL) is going to kick off from 1st October, 2016 with a game between Northeast United FC and Kerala Blasters FC. The finals will be held on 18th December, 2016 at a venue that is yet to be confirmed.
This time, too, there will be eight teams that will play 14 matches each in the round-robin stage, followed by a home and away semifinal, and then the grand culmination of the tournament – the finals. The tournament normally continues for a couple of months and has been fashioned on a franchise model that is already followed in A-League (Australia) and Major League Soccer (the US and Canada). Here is a brief lowdown on all the eight teams:
Atletico de Kolkata
Atletico de Kolkata won the first edition of ISL in 2014. The team is based in Kolkata and this year it will play its home matches at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, which has a capacity of 22,000 people. In the first two editions, it had played its games at Yuvabharati Krirangan, a stadium with a capacity of almost one lakh people. It is also known as The Bengal Tigers and ATK.
The team is owned by a company named Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt. Ltd. – a consortium made up of Atletico Madrid, Saurav Ganguly, Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka, and Utsav Parekh – a trio of well-known Indian businessmen.
The marquee player for this year is Helder Postiga, who played in a similar role last year as well. Postiga has played in two World Cups and three Euros, playing a major role in the team reaching the finals in 2004. The new coach this season is Jose Francisco Molina, who has managed clubs such as Villareal.
Among the Indians, the key players are going to be Debjit Majumdar, Shilton Paul, Arnab Mondal, Pritam Kotal, Keegan Pereira, Kingshuk Debnath, Robert Lalthlamuana, Bikash Jairu, Lalrindika Ralte, and Jewel Raja.
Among the international players you need to keep an eye out for Dani Mallo, Pablo Gallardo, Ofentse Nato, Borja Fernandez, Sameehg Doutie, Stephen Pearson, and Iain Hume.
Apart from its success in the first edition, it also went to the semifinals last year. It is expected that with ATK’s star-studded squad and an exceptional track record the team can be considered semifinalists at least. It will play its first match against Chennaiyin FC at its home ground on 2nd October.
Chennaiyin FC is a franchise based out of Chennai and will play its home matches at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the city. The stadium has a capacity of 40,000 people.
The team’s owners are MS Dhoni, Abhishek Bachchan, and Vita Dani. The team is also known among its fans as Blue Devils and The Super Machans.
The team’s marquee player is John Arne Riise, a well-known midfielder from Norway and a Liverpool legend. Marco Materazzi will once again return as coach after the first two seasons.
Its top Indian players would be Karanjit Singh, Nallappan Mohanraj, Harmanjot Khabra, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Dhanpal Ganesh, Dhanachandra Singh, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, and Baljit Sahni. Among the international stars Bernard Mendy, Manuele Blasi, and Duwayne Kerr will be the ones to watch out for.
The team is the reigning champion of ISL and also reached the semifinals in the first edition. It is expected that it would perform well this time around as well and could possibly reach the semi-finals at least. The team will play its first match against Atletico de Kolkata at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata on 2nd October.
Based in Delhi, Delhi Dynamos are also known as Lions. The team plays its home matches at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and it has a capacity of 60,000 people.
The team is owned by DEN Networks.
The team’s marquee player is Florent Malouda, a World Cupper and Euro Cupper for France on two occasions each. He also played in the World Cup finals in 2006. The head coach this season is Gianluca Zambrotta, who won the 2006 World Cup for Italy. He has coached Chiasso in Switzerland.
Its leading Indian player is Konsham Singh, who has represented India. Apart from that there are plenty of competent footballers who can be expected to put up a good show. Among its international recruits ones we should look out for are David Addy, Ruben, Marcos Tebar, Richard Gadze, and Badara Badji.
Till date, the team has flattered to deceive never reaching the semifinals in any edition. The team is a young one – one from which its fans should not expect anything big right now. The team will play its first match – an away encounter – at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium against Chennaiyin FC.
Dubbed lovingly as The Gaurs (Reddes) by its fans, FC Goa is based in Goa and its home matches are held at Fatorda Stadium, Margao with a capacity of 19,000 people.
The team’s owner is a company named Goan Football Club Pvt. Ltd., an organization made up of Virat Kohli, Venugopal Dhoot, and Jaydev Mody.
Its marquee player is Lucio, a World Cup winner for Brazil in 2002. He has also won Confederations Cup on two occasions – 2005 and 2009. The team will once again be coached by Zico, once regarded as White Pele. He has managed the national teams of Japan and Iraq.
Its chief Indian stars are Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, Debabrata Roy, Raju Gaikwad, Robin Singh, Denzil Franco, Fulganco Cardozo, and Romeo Fernandes. The international component has names such as Richarlyson, Gregory Arnolin, and Rafael Coelho.
The team was a semifinalist in 2014 and then went one better, reaching the final in 2015. It is expected that this time too it is a possible candidate for at least the semifinal. It will play its first game against Northeast United FC at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati.
Kerala Blasters FC
Kerala Blasters FC has a host of well-known names among its owners with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, and popular southern Indian celluloid stars such as Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna, and Allu Arvind. Industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad also owns a stake in the franchise. The team plays its home matches at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi with a capacity of 62,500 people.
The team’s marquee player is Aaron Hughes, a central defender from Northern Ireland, who appeared recently at the Euro 2016. The team this year is being coached by Steve Coppell who has managed teams such as Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Brentford, Brighton & Hove Albion, Reading, and Bristol City.
Its Indian players to watch out for are Sandip Nandy, Rino Anto, Sandesh Jhingan, Mehtab Hossain, Mohammed Rafique, CK Vineeth, and Mohammed Rafi. Among international players Graham Stack, Didier Kadio, Azrack Mahamat, Kervens Belfort, Michael Chopra, and Duckens Nazon are the ones to watch out for.
Kerala Blasters performed really well in the first edition reaching the finals but was unable to even qualify for the semifinals the next year. However, keeping its track record in mind it could be regarded as a dark horse for this year. It will take part in the inaugural match itself.
Mumbai City FC
Mumbai City FC is based in Mumbai and plays its home games at Mumbai Football Arena, Andheri with a capacity of 18,000 people.
Its owners are Ranbir Kapoor and Bimal Parekh.
The marquee player for Mumbai City FC this year would be Diego Forlan, the Golden Ball winner of 2010 World Cup. He has won the 2011 Copa America as well. This season the team will be coached by Alexandre Guimares from Costa Rica. He is an experienced coach having started his career in 1994.
The Indian captain Sunil Chhetri is easily the star Indian player of the team. Apart from him, there are other names such as Aiborlang Khongjee, Anwar Ali, Pronay Halder, and Jackichand Singh. Among the international players Gerson Vieira, Facundo Cardozo, Lucian Goian, Matias Defederico, Krisztian Vadocz, and Sony Norde will be the ones to watch out for.
The team till date has never reached the semifinals but with the star-studded line up this year, especially in the attack, things could change around. It is easily one of the dark horses of the tournament. It will play its first game on 3rd October against FC Pune City at Balewadi Stadium, Pune.
Northeast United FC
Owned by John Abraham, Northeast United FC is based in Guwahati and is also known as The Highlanders. It plays its home matches at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, which has a capacity of 35,000 people.
The icon player for this franchise this year is Didier Zokora. The defensive midfielder has represented Ivory Coast in three World Cups – 2006, 2010, and 2014. The coach this year is Nelo Vingada who has coached the national teams of Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Iran.
Its Indian contingent comprises stars like Subrata Pal, Nirmal Chettri, Seityasen Singh, Rowlin Borges, Holicharan Narzary, Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Sumeet Passi. Its top international players this year are Romaric, Sasha Aneff, Emiliano Alfaro, and Robert Cullen.
The team has never reached the semis and it looks unlikely that the trend will change this year. However, it can spring some surprises. It will also host the inaugural match for this year’s edition.
FC Pune City
FC Pune City is also known as Stallions among its fans and it plays its home matches in the 11,000-seater Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Balewadi.
The team is owned by ACF Fiorentina, Hrithik Roshan, Wadhawan Group, and Rama Varma.
The team is yet to decide on a marquee player following an unfortunate injury to Eidur Gudjohnsen, who was previously supposed to fill that role. It is being coached by Antonio Lopez Habas who guided Atletico de Kolkata to the first trophy in 2014. He has coached the Bolivian national team and has extensive coaching experience in Spain and South Africa.
Among Indians, Arindam Bhattacharya, Narayan Das, Augustin Fernandes, Gourmangi Singh, Francis Fernandes, Arata Izumi, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Manish Maithani, Sanju Pradhan, and Lenny Rodrigues are expected to play major roles. Edel Bete, Eduardo Ferreira, Bruno, Jesus Tato, and Gustavo Oberman are the international names that others will have to watch out for.
The team has failed to reach the semifinals in the last editions. However, under the guidance of Habas and with a strong Indian contingent, things could improve significantly. It will play its first game against Mumbai City FC at Balewadi Stadium.