The Indian Super League (ISL), a joint football venture initiated by IMG-Reliance along with the AIFF (All India Football Federation) will take its first shape on Sunday when the successful bids will be announced by the tournament organisers.
Designed in the Indian Premier League (Cricket) format, the ISL is a football league that is being promoted by rich corporates such as IMG and Reliance and is expected to kick-off in September this year in what is being tipped as a game-changer for the sport in the country.
Ranked 145th in the world by the FIFA, India has been called a ‘sleeping giant’ in the world of football by FIFA President Sep Blatter in his earlier visit to the country. This proposed football league, which is due to feature old footballing legends such as Hernan Crespo and Robert Pires, is being looked at as a venture that will bring football to the fore in a country that is dominated by cricket lovers.
So far 10 possible cities have been identified by the organising committees as possible venues or centres for the teams including football crazy venues such as Kolkata, Kochi and Goa. Bids have been submitted for these 10 cities out of which only 8 will be chosen as the home to the 8 franchisees that are to fight out in this glamorous league. Among those who have submitted the bids, names such as Shahrukh Khan, John Abraham (Indian actors) and cricketers such as Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and M.S. Dhoni are the ones that seem to be doing the rounds. Interestingly, Sourav Ganguly seems to be leading the consortium that constitutes Spanish La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid and the two have jointly placed their bid for the franchise in Kolkata.
While more than two dozen bids have been submitted, reports suggest that a panel of seven judges will take a call regarding the merit in each and every bid and will accordingly award the franchisee rights to the successful bidders. Insiders believe that money is not the only factor that will be looked at when judging the merit of a bid and that it is the measures proposed to develop the sport at the grass root level that will determine the fate of a bid.
Hence all franchise owners are expected to develop intensive and World-Class youth programmes across their home state/city in order to develop the sport at grass root level. Hence one can expect sincere scouting facilities to be put in place by these football teams which will further develop the sport in the country. A lot of money is expected to flow into the game as the reserved price for each team is fixed at Rs 12 crores per year for a span of 10 years. Along with this, an additional Rs 2 crores must be spent in the first year to develop the sport at grassroot levels by each and every team.
The results of the successful bids are expected to be out on Sunday and fans across the country are looking forward to the much anticipated football league that is to kick-off in Spetember this year. However concerns have been raised regarding the timing of the league as it is scheduled right in the middle of India’s premier football league, the I League and hence many players have been forced to choose between either of the two teams. Each team is supposed to be composed of 22 players which will include 10 foreign players, 8 domestic Indian players and 4 local Indian players. However since this league is clashing directly with the I-League, a lot of questions have been raised if such a proposed format could further damage the sport in the country by creating two warring factions. Many players have had to choose between the regular I-League and the 3 months long IMG-Reliance league hence creating a mood of suspicion and doubt in Indian Football.
However as of now, the ISL is ready and kicking to go. With the results of the bids coming out on Sunday, Indian Football is sure excited and geared up for what is being proposed as a ‘football fiesta’.