Let’s football

Let’s football

Indian Super League (ISL), the third edition of which got underway on October 1, is all set to hog the media and national spotlight for the next two months. 

Indian Super League (ISL), the third edition of which got underway on October 1, is all set to hog the media and national spotlight for the next two months.

Taken under any yardstick, it can safely be assumed that more than the I-League it has been the ISL that has upped the popularity stakes of the beautiful game in India.

Like the Indian Premier League (IPL), which has opened the floodgates for myriad other disciplines, the ISL too will have a mindboggling overseas presence and an equal, if not more, of the high-voltage thrills, spills, drama, agonies and ecstasies and pulsating moments.

Of course, the ISL is not devoid of its own ups and downs. After all, it began way behind the original launch date. But, unlike the badminton and hockey leagues, which flattered to deceive and fizzled out in no time, ISL has not just survived but has actually grown in terms of global popularity and television audience.

This is quite significant as it puts it on a par with Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) as an event that has held on to its own despite the national craze for cricket.

What is even more praiseworthy and speaks about the popularity of the sport is that ISL commanded an average attendance of 27,111 per game in the second season, while in competitive terms each match averaged three goals, which implies that the fans had their fair share of enjoyment either while catching up with the action in stadiums or being glued to live telecasts.

What makes ISL slightly different from IPL is that unlike the cult-pioneer here we have franchises that are owned by actors and even cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, each having a magnetic pull that can bring in crowds and add it to the collective charm of football.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has mooted a merger of the IMG-Reliance co-owned super league in its prevailing format and the Federation-sponsored I-League from next season.

It is a good indication that the Federation is not closing down ISL but is blending the two elite events into one championship, an ISL that will have I-League teams to make it a ten-team tournament.

ISL critics point that unlike IPL that boasts of the best current crop of players from across the world, ISL has failed to woo classy active players.

Marquee players like Diego Forlan, Steve Coppell, Eiður Guðjohnsen, Andre Bikey, Jonatan Jucca, Matterazi, Marco Materazzi, Roberto Carlos, Steven Mendoza and Allesandro Del Piero are all celebrated names but then most are past their halcyon days.

Of course, there is no denying that they are popular draws to an Indian audience that is thirsting for iconic footballers, particularly in the absence of any globally reputed desi talent.

One sincerely hopes that the third season of ISL will help in boosting its popularity in India and more importantly the AIFF will go on to capitalise on the ISL craze, considering that the Under-17 World Cup is being hosted in India. Come on India, let’s Football!

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