Despite being the premier event of one of the most populous country of the world, the I-League has failed to attract fans on a large scale. Indian prefers watching European leagues over the domestic league. Many believe these lacklustre attitude of scouting the foreigners has hampered the quality of the league. A normal football fan will definitely prefer a better quality football over I-League. The quality of foreign players I-League club recruit has always always under the scanner. The clubs have been found signing foreign players who have no prior experience of playing professional football in their own country. The foreigners, which clubs sign is unknown in their own nation so there is very less chance that they will help league to get attention of the people. This problem has been identified by AIFF and they have brought in some stipulation which will enable clubs to sign a player who has a reputation of playing at the highest level.
I-League committee has come up with the rule, where a club has to sign at least one Marquee player and the clubs will be ineligble to field the other three foreign players if they fail to sign the marquee player. This rule is expected to bring some change in signing patterns for the club. The presence of reputed faces in the league could raise the interest of the people who all these years have preferred to avoid Indian football.
The Impact On Japan, USA And Others
It’s not like I-League would be first league look to try sign a reputed player to bolster the popularity of the league. This experiment has been used in many countries and the football in those nations has been greatly benefited.
Japan’s J-League in their first few years signed some top name in world football. The clubs signed players like Gary Linekar, Zico. These players not only helped to raise the professionalism of the clubs, but also made J-League one of the most popular league in Asia. The League in a short period of time earned reputation of being one of the best in Asia.
United States of America’s Major League Soccer now has gained popularity not just in Europe but also in Asia. The MLS made some headlines when the world superstar and style icon David Beckham signed for Los Angeles Galaxy. Soon there was a flurry of global superstar like Henry, Chile to name a few. MLS is one of the growing league in the world and which have done positive impact on the United States National team.
Malaysia is the newest entrant trying this experiment and it has to be be admitted that the move has had some positive impact on the domestic league. Malaysian premier league sets criteria for the clubs according to which they have to sign the players. The clubs have complimented the federation very well and roped in players like Argentina International Luciano Figueroa, Montenegro International Milan Purovic. The signings of player of such caliber have improved on field quality and have raised the average attendance in the league.
The among examples have raised the profile of the local league and one hopes that the same thing could be emulated in the I-league.
The big names in the I-League could bring much needed glamour in the league. With the inclusion of the global superstars would make all eyes turn toward the I-League. I-League getting acceptance of the Indian people is the need of the hour and this could be achieved by giving them a chance to see some superstars with domestic upcoming talent. The professional players will have the experience of playing in the big leagues and they could share their experience with younger players in the league. The younger players will definitely pick up a few good things from the Marquee signings. It will be a good experience for players to share a dressing room and train with the players they have grown up watching.
It will be imperative for clubs to match the needs of the Marquee signings. This could raise the professionalism of the club to the new standard. Player management would be vital aspect which we can expect to improve if the marquee players are roped in by the clubs.
It will be interesting to see if a player who has past his prime could match the expectations of clubs on the field. We cannot expect a current International to sign up for the I-League club. The semi retired players could be the one who could join the clubs.
I-League is considered to be a loss making business and marquee signings could increase the financial burden on some of the clubs. The clubs with lesser budget will find it difficult to match the demands of the player of higher calibre. Apart from paying salaries, the accommodation and lifestyle of the player also could affect the clubs.
The success of the Marquee player rule in leagues like MLS, J-League, Malaysian Premier League or A-League was mainly due to the criteria set by the Federation and the support clubs gave to it. The success in India will depend on the cohesiveness between the clubs and I-league organizing committee. India is huge market for European leagues and if I-league could able to turn very few percentage of European following people toward it that could be a big achievement. The Marquee signings could just be a step, to help achieve it.