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Reporter's Diary: What Indian Super League is to me?

After a hectic two and a half months of exciting and tedious football action, the second season of the Indian Super League (ISL) finally came to an end on 20th December. For part time football journalist like me, the end of such a short yet packed league leaves a void in my day to day functioning. With matches being played six days a week, following the league and covering it was one challenging job. You miss a match, the tables turn around.

There has been a persistent complain that ISL is designed to be very hectic with back to back scheduling of matches. According to coaches it takes a huge toll on the players to perform consistently and hence makes them prone to injuries. Also as a coach, you have to rotate your players due to fatigue related reasons and thus killing the winning momentum.

This complain about the duration of the league is a crucial one. On one hand football purists and coaches are asking for longer league if ISL is to create any impact on Indian football but on the other, it is also a fact that India currently does not have the leverage to bring in international football stars for a longer duration of time.

If I am to characterize ISL, I would use two words, money and celebrity. 

The league is infused with insane amount of corporate money and thus pulling in names like Roberto Carlos into India, which would have been next to impossible some two years back.

Zico was one of the big names who came to India after ISL 
As long as we have money we can keep bringing in big names into the country and for that we have Reliance. But unfortunately so, India does not have a football eco system that can sustain these stars or a longer duration. So that dialogue about a longer league would not probably be a viable one, until and unless we shift our attention to larger issues like infrastructural development, prodigy management and many more.

ISL as many claims to be is the much needed boast which Indian football needed and I am not at all denying it. But if given an opportunity I would like to rename the league from Indian Super League to Indian Football Festival.

For me, more than a league, it’s a festival. India has never celebrated the game of football in its true spirit. We have national league, the I League, but people don’t seem to know it. We don’t have a fan culture. We connect more to European clubs than our domestic clubs.
Captain of Indian Football team Sunil
Chhetri was one of the star players of the

The Indian Super League in that way is helping India create that environment where football can groom. However, it’s way too early to look for a reflection of the league in the performance of the Indian national team. The FIFA rank of the Indian team would not be under 100 within a fortnight. There is still a lot to be done, if we actually want to emerge as ‘Footballing Giant’ in the longer run.

I love the game of football and I love the region I come from. Thus this made ISL a very joyous experience for me, as a fan. As an average audience it becomes very complicated for us to differentiate the binaries which I talked about above. Many, if not the majority visited the stadiums because ISL was projected as festivity. Celebrity power is something which drove the entire league. Even our media houses called it game play between Bollywood celebrities and obliviously cricket stars.

As long as it brings audience to the stands, celebrity power is fine. But this should not be the case forever. People should come to the stadium for the love for football, not for the love of John Abraham, who owns the team.

To conclude, yes I too have complaints. ISL is a PR fortress, as a journalist there were things which I could not ask, things I could not write about. But I am ready to forgo everything for the love of football that I have. But what I am really disappointed about is the episode that happened in the finals. The game is over everyone. I can’t pass a value judgement as to who was right and who wasn’t in the final. But the fight that erupted after the match and the way it was presented wasn’t something which any football lover would appreciate.

ISL cannot guarantee the rebirth of Indian football, it’s our love for the game and the support of the authorities that can. Keep following the game and keep enjoying the game.


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