A brand new feature on this website is the introduction of weekly & fortnightly columns focusing on various leagues, countries and regions across the World. Sami Faizullah here has a look at the talking points in Indian Football.
More confusion over I-League and Indian Super League going forward
The narrative that most Indian football supporters want to hear when the I-League and the Indian Super League is spoken in the same breadth, involves the word ‘combination’. While many have picked their allegiance to either one of the two top level league/tournament, the practical & successful step to take would obviously be to amalgamate the two, thus combining the benefits of both to work out a sustained long-term strategy for football in the country.
All-Indian Football Federation President, Praful Patel, has recently spoken of Indian Super League teams showing an interest in playing in the longer-formatted I-League which for some would suggest is a good enough step towards combination. But Patel went ahead and made comments recently, which frankly, are quite disappointing, “There is no question of the two coming together as a league”.
Why? Why not? If I-League clubs have welcomed the Indian Super League in terms of loaning players out and holding a stake in franchises, with teams from the latter showing an interest in participating in the former, why can’t the two come together? And if not, what then is the way forward for the two, and the future of Indian Football in the country? Because the present state is still quite bewildering, with two separate competitions existing. Yes, only the I-League is the sole top level competition but for how long can a two-tournament system exist?
One can only hope that the individuals in charge take the reasonable and practical step of atleast formulating a basic plan of combining the two, rather than believing this present state continues for an extended period of time.
Indian Super League’s average attendance figures show its success in terms of popularity
Italian Serie A, French Ligue 1, Major League Soccer, A-League, J-League, Chinese Super League are just some of the professional football leagues that the ISL has surpassed in terms of average attendance figures. The latest numbers suggest that nearly 25,000 supporters on average are turning up at stadiums to witness their newly adopted teams as football gains popularity in the sub-continent. The two European leagues mentioned above have over an average attendance of over 20,000 but fall short of the ISL’s figures, while the Asian leagues mentioned there (which the ISL is directly competing with) and USA’s MLS all have figures ranging between 17,000-19,000.
Ofcourse these figures are a result of early popularity, but the hope is that this is sustained not only throughout the duration of the Indian Super League but also through the many facets of Indian football, particularly the I-League and the national team. The existing I-League roped in just under 6,000 viewers on an average in the 2013-14 season which certainly shows the success the Indian Super League has already experienced in it’s early rise.
Jermaine Pennant’s signing raises questions
Following Omar Rodrgiues’ injury that left him without the possibility of competing again in the Indian Super League, FC Pune City acted quickly by signing ex-Premier League star, Jermaine Pennant who at one point was the most expensive teenager in England.
While one can applaud the Pune management for taking in a replacement as quickly as they did, the move again brought into question the system and organization of the Indian Super League. With the tournament being just 10 weeks long, there was a proper draft system put in place prior to the start with a sort of ‘window’ for making signings outside the draft also implemented. But with the tournament well into its existence, signings are still being allowed. The fact that teams mid-way through the season are allowed to make signings at the whiff of an injury, has left some quite baffled. Personally, would have loved to have seen an Indian get an opportunity in an already foreigner dominated tournament.
Though I have been told by many that this can just be passed as a first season learning process, I can’t help but question the reasoning behind allowing these transfers to take place at all.
U-19 I-League and Second division yet to kick off
The AIFF has again come under scrutiny as the proposed U-19 I-League and I-League second division are yet to kick-off, despite reportedly having to start two months back. The incident again shows the inefficiency of the AIFF to handle all aspects of the sport they govern, including having ignored the national team back in October and the Durand Cup more recently.
“Way back in July, the federation have announced that the Under-19 I-League would begin in September. However, there has been no further news since, even as the calendar moves into the month of November.
Likewise, the I-league 2nd Division scheduled for November remains in the dark.
In a decision probably influenced by the hosting of the glamorous Indian Super League, the U-19 I-League was tentatively mooted to be held in September.”
This was reported by Bratish Poddar for Fever Pitch. While the AIFF has done a remarkable job with the Indian Super League, their complete ignorance of any other football in India is quite astonishing. Again, this can be cited as a learning curve given it’s the first season, but there will be more questions raised if things don’t start to improve.
Talent Radar Player of the Week
FC Goa’s 22-year-old, Romeo Fernandes is this week’s Talent Radar Player of the Week after having helped his side to a first Indian Super League win, following victory at home to Delhi Dynamos. It was he who played a lovely low cross across the box in the first half that was sadly not met, while with 17 minutes to go he headed across goal from a cross and ensured Goa got their goal, and later a second).
Written by Sami Faizullah