Football in India is on a road to success – thanks to the new found interest in leagues. Sports Leagues in India other than cricket are catching up fast and as a result have instilled an increased level of interest in sports lovers and the common man as well. One such league that has made football in India popular is the Indian Super League (ISL), which is popularly called the Hero Indian Super League. This professional league in India is one of the most celebrated and top-tier leagues after the I-league. For the football fans it’s a treat to watch their favourite players perform at their best. The league consists of eight franchise teams from all over India. The league takes place from September to December with its final run forming the champion. The ISL 2015 is all set to begin from 3 October. The first match will be played between Chennaiyan FC and defending champions Atletico de Kolkata at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai. The chants of let’s football will soon be on every Indian’s lips.
With the determination to make football a popular and top-celebrated sport in India, the Indian Super League was introduced in 2013. The aim was to make India the foremost player worldwide. The format of ISL follows that of Twenty20 cricket Indian Premier League (ISL) and also of Major League Soccer (United States). The ISL uses a franchise structure in which eight teams had been formed to join in the league instead of the promotion and relegation structure that most of the football leagues around the world follow.
Season 2 of ISL will be different
The Indian Super League began with utter enthusiasm with the inaugural season being played from12 October 2014 to 20 December 2014. Atletico de Kolkata emerged as winners of the 2014 season defeating Kerala blasters 1-0 in the final game of the 2014 league.
Season 2 of the ISL is to be played this year beginning from October. With each season, efforts to bring positive changes and to improve the league are being introduced. For the 2015 season, the controlling group of the ISL – Football Sports Development – has presented a salary cap which is decided to be set at Rs 20 Crore. This decision came after the meeting held in March this year. Besides this, other rules were introduced too. Each team will be obligated to sign a marquee player for the 2015 season which can be the similar one from last season however teams are allowed to sign a new marquee player as well. Among the other roster rules, every team will be permitted to retain from one to five international players from earlier season and the teams can even sign new foreign players devoid of international players’ draft. Also, each team will be permitted to retain up to six domestic players. The Indian players who will not be retained are free to sign up for new ISL team up to May 2015 and if they fail to stay without a team by May then they will be itemized as a choice in the domestic draft next month in June.
The ISL meeting exposed that each team may consist of minimum 22 players in a team, with the accumulation of two developmental players. So, each team would consist of minimum one marquee player, eight international or foreign players and thirteen domestic (Indian) players out of which two should be developmental players. At maximum, every team is allowed to comprise 25 players, with two of the adding three players being permitted to be foreign.
It will be for the first time that the Indian Super League will have a player auction consisting of 12 to 15 Indian players who have donned the national team color but who haven’t played in the earlier ISL season.
Formation of ISL
When the idea of a football league originated, it brought eagerness in players, fans and the football fraternity. But there were many phases and tests that the league had to pass through – the foundation journey wasn’t stress-free.
The Indian Super League was formally launched on 21 October 2013 through IMG-Reliance, AIFF and Star Sports. At first, the league was declared to begin from January 2014 to March 2014. But, later it was postponed to September 2014. In October, it was declared that former Manchester United player Louis Saha became the first marquee player to be signed for the ISL. With such names, the aim to attract fame to the league began! With Star Sports as one of the official broadcaster s of the ISL in India, the thrill reached every household.
The announcement regarding bidding for the eight ISL teams were set to be completed before the end of 2013. Interest from corporates, Bollywood stars as well as other associations made sure the league as well as the bidding would be a hit. But, the postponement of the league resulted in bidding to take place from March 3, 2014. And yes, the bidders were required to conform to a financial obligation and also promote Indian football at grassroots level in their particular zone. Lastly, early April was the time when the winning bidders were declared. The chosen states were – Delhi, Goa, Bangalore, Kochi, Guwahati, Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata.
Celebrity ownership fuelled ISL
Big names and celebrities showed interest in the league and celebrity ownership enhanced the platform. Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, with PVP Ventures, acquired the bid for the Kochi franchise. Former Indian Cricket player and Ex-captain Sourav Ganguly with Indian business tycoons and La Liga side Atletico Madrid won the bid for Kolkata Franchise. Celebrities, Bollywood stars and business tycoons fuelled the league with their bidding wins. Bollywood heartthrobs John Abraham, Salman Khan and Ranbir Kapoor won bids for the Guwahati, Pune and Mumbai franchise respectively. Delhi and Bangalore were acquired by big companies whereas Goa was won by Videocon and I-League sides (Dempo and Salgaocar) in partnership.
Out of all teams, Atletico de Kolkata became the first team to be launched officially on 7 May 2014. Also, the team declared its first head coach, Antonio Lopez Habas on 8 July 2014. They were also the first ones to announce the first formal marquee signing of the ISL – Luis Garca (UEFA Champions League conqueror). Ultimately, all eight teams were named as — Atletico De Kolkata, Bangalore Titans, Delhi Dynamos, Goa, Kerala Blasters, Mumbai City, NorthEast United and Pune City. Later in August 2014, Bangalore’s franchise was given to Chennai and named as Chennaiyan. Then the inclusion of new marquee players like Alessandro Del Piero, Robert Pires, David James, Luis Garcia, Elano and David Trezeguet brought excitement to the Indian football fans. The thought of seeing their favorite players in front of their eyes enthralled all.
And then it began – the inaugural season of ISL, on 12 October 2014 at the famous Salt Lake Stadium where Atletico de Kolkata won 3-0 against Mumbai City. Fikru Teferra scored the first goal. The final took place on 20 December 2014 with Atletico de Kolkata emerging as the winners as they defeated Kerala Blasters 1-0 at D Y Patil Stadium, Mumbai.
ISL 2015’ format
The Indian Super League 2015 will be held from 3 October to 20 December. Teams will play 14 matches alongside the other seven sides twice (home and away). There are 56 games played in total before the top four teams pave their way into the finals. The finals would comprise a semi-final and final match. The semi-final phase is played in a two-legged format whereas the final match is a one-off played at a neutral location.
Players to look out for
In the 2014 Season, the usual pay for an international player in the ISL was around 36.5 lakh whereas the normal pay for Indian players was around Rupees 24 lakh. Alessandro Del Piero was the highest paid player in that season with $1,700,000 for his three-month period play. For the Indian players, Subrata Pal and Syed Rahim Nabi were the highest paid players of that season and received 80 Lakh INR each. As the eight teams are all set to vie for the ISL 2015 title, the Indian players to look out for will be — Sunil Chettri (the most popular and followed player), Karanjit Singh, Robin Singh, Arata Izumi, Anas Edathodik, Thoi Singh and Eugeneson Lyngdoh.
Season 2 fans will witness even bigger names with the recent signing of Brazil legend Roberto Carlos as the marquee player and manager of Delhi Dynamos. Another Brazilian Lucio, who was part of World Cup team for Brazil in 2002, has been signed for FC Goa. Portuguese star Simao Sabrosa was announced as the marquee player for NorthEast United FC. Delhi Dynamos have roped in former Liverpool star John Arne Riise this year. Football fans will await action from his side too. Kerala blasters too have some great talent this year says Sachin Tendulkar. With Peter Taylor (England U-21 coach), the team expects to put up a better show this year. They have signed foreign players too including Spanish midfielders Josue Currais Prieto and Victor Pulga Herrero. As the second season of ISL is set to kick off, eyes will be on who performs well and who takes away the prestigious Indian Super League Title!