The jury may still be out on the impact of Indian Super League (ISL) on Indian football, but a research by a news-tracking agency reveals some fascinating figures. The agency monitored the mentions of key words ‘I-League’ and ‘Indian football’ for a week, and till Sunday, it generated roughly 60 results per search.
On Monday, though, the results were overwhelming. A simple search for the same key words resulted in close to 650 results worldwide. If there were any doubts over the curiosity generated over the announcement made by ISL organisers IMG-Reliance on Sunday, this would lay it to rest.
IMG-R revealed a star-studded line-up including Sourav Ganguly, Atletico Madrid, Sachin Tendulkar, Salman Khan and Ranbir Kapoor, among others, as the team owners for football’s IPL avatar. And it is believed the association of some of the biggest names from the sport, cinema and corporate world for the proposed two-month league will give a much-needed push to the game, which had stagnated in the last few years.
There are reasons to feel optimistic. The league will take football to venues which have not been explored before. One of the major flaws of the I-League, as well as the erstwhile National Football League, is that it is not a pan-India league.
The participation of clubs has been restricted mainly to a few cities — Goa, Kolkata, Mumbai, and more recently from Shillong, Pune and Bangalore. The teams from North have remained absent ever since JCT shut shop and none from South have been permanent fixtures in the I-League. ISL includes team from Delhi, Guwahati and Kochi — three major centres that have been conspicuous by their absence at national level.
IMG-R’s immediate step ahead of the player drafts would be to spruce up the infrastructure. They had hired the services of Gregory Gillin, former Wembley stadium pitch expert, to recce the stadiums across the country. Fields will be relaid, drainage system will be reviewed and seating facilities will be improved at all the venues.
IMG-R have made lofty claims regarding infrastructure and grassroot development. How much they fulfill remains to be seen. “Training centres will also be established in all the host cities. We currently have zero infrastructure but when we are calling some of the best players and coaches to the country, we cannot have shoddy facilities,” an IMG-R official said.
Of course, a lot will also depend on the quality of the players who will be a part of the draft. Each team will consist of 22 players out of which 10 will be foreigners. Considering that most of the leagues around the world will be underway in September, the organisers may be forced to compromise on the standard of the 80 continued…