Football in India is making waves as far as the popularity is concerned with the recent inauguration of Indian Super League (ISL) from 12th October to 20th December 2014. High quality football is expected on the fields. It’s not that there haven’t been any efforts to popularise football earlier. The anticipation and fervour of the spectators lasted only for the starting couple of matches which faded away gradually. I-League was an initiative to popularise the Indian professional clubs. However, it didn’t succeed. With a total prize of Rs 15 crore and eight franchisees with the highest ever budget in India, ISL is projected to make the football standards elevated in India.
ISL – well hyped already
The famous slogan – Let’s Football — on TV Channels is already on the spectators’ lips. Now Inquisitiveness and desire to see what is coming up for the players as well as the audience will indeed attract a high number. From officials to football experts, they all think that ISL will surely uplift the sport and help recognize talent in India. The recent success of Kabaddi League has enlarged our hopes. The current attention to other sports in India besides Cricket is splendid and ISL is another hope of getting high-quality football in India.
Celebrity owners, foreign managers and star players are all marketing measures adopted by the ISL, to pull audience and make it a success. India has been considered a sleeping football giant but now India seeks to change the image. Youngsters in India prefer watching English Premier Club or La Liga to Indian football. There are many factors to it—the quality of football, the broadcasting, the marketing of the sport, et al. And now ISL is here to take charge of all these responsibilities. There are huge expectations from the new football league but India must understand that it’s the mutual relationship and involvement of the players, fans, spectators and authorities to take the sport ahead. A stadium thronged with fans is indeed a good sight and encourages sportsmen to perform better.
“Celebrities and popular players have been drawn into the sport which has turned out be a huge success. The involvement of famous cricketers and actors in these sports events have made it trendier. The upcoming football league will see all the excitement and efforts at the inaugural match on 12th October in Kolkata,” Ghaus Mohammed, expert and commentator, tells us enthusiastically. However, he also believes that promoting grass-root level football and recognition of talent is necessary to succeed in overall development of the sport. “The football association should also concentrate on the tournaments played at grass-root level in India. There are bright players who are being unnoticed,” he adds.
One of the best forwards of our country, Rafi Mohammed will be playing for Atletico De Kolkata in the ISL. “This new league will be good for players and for the development of football in India. With the involvement of celebrities, experienced foreign managers, international coaches, broadcasters and many more, I believe that quality of our game played on field is the crucial factor to make this league a success. We will give our best out there and learn from other European styles of football,” says the 33-year-old enthusiastically. Let’s hope that the stagnated Indian football moves forward with this new league and bring about positive changes for football in India. Football is limited to a few states in India, namely, Kolkata, Goa and a little bit in Delhi. ISL is yet to rope on fans from other parts of India.
With the IPL turning out to be a smash hit, the country did well in responding with a flurry of successful IPL-styled sporting tournaments such as the Indian Badminton League, Pro Kabbadi League and now the Indian Super League. The 700-crore deal struck between the All India Football Federation (AIFF) with IMG-Reliance giving the corporate bigwigs full ownership rights of the ISL for a 15-year period, and this will ensure that the league doesn’t fall short on funds. This deal also resulted in the ability to rope in leading kit sponsors, commercial sponsors and former international stars for the franchises. More importantly, development at grassroots level has begun for both local players and academies.
The media is also playing an active role in building the image of the league. Seasoned international legends like Alessandro del Piero, David Trezeguet, David James, Zico, Marco Materazzi and Freddie Ljunberg have pledged their alliance with their respective ISL teams and will bring the much needed experience into the game. On the other hand, the fact that all eight teams are owned by Indian icons like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly as well as popular film stars will draw in the crowds for the games. Atletico Madrid too partly owns a team. The clubs, undoubtedly have a long, long way to go before they can match up to the bigger, established European sides.
Team owners not expecting major returns right now
The team owners have accepted the fact that their investments will probably take quite a while to yield any returns. But this is a step in the right direction to solving India’s footballing woes. The 2017 Under-17 FIFA World Cup will be the first time that India will host an international football competition. Put the two together, and they could be mere steeping stones in realising a long-standing dream of taking India to the global stage, making use of its latent talent. On this note, let the show begin, and may the odds be ever in their favour Star network as a broadcaster for Kabaddi League brought the game into each and every house in India. Hope it does the same to football!