Season 1 of the Indian Super League was a huge success in more ways than one. It served as a wonderful platform for talented, young Indian players, while giving the fans an opportunity to watch some of the greatest players of all time. So what’s in store this time around, with the kick-off of season 2 of the ISL not so far away?
With ten minutes to seven on the clock, enter the stadium: four bright, dazzling floodlights focused on the pitch (the blend of white and green, painting the pitch fluorescent) surrounded by over 25000 fans, head-splitting music, and all of this topped off with a few big Bollywood and cricket names in the VIP box– this is the sort of atmosphere we experienced in season 1 of the Indian Super League.
As we make our way onto the stand to occupy the little room unoccupied, it feels like something unusually special, only because it’s so rare and new. And with the deafening noise as the teams come out, we almost feel blessed to have gotten this opportunity in a country that doesn’t understand much of sport apart from cricket. This was the start of something great, something that was unthinkable ten years ago. And although Indian football is still far from being comparable to the likes of the European and South American teams, the Indian Super League is not a bad way to kick-start a revolution.
Season 1 was a huge success. The mouth-watering fixtures were thoroughly entertaining as we saw some great goals scored, precise tackles and intricate passing. Atletico de Kolkata won the Hero ISL, but narrowly so. The competition in this league is such that every team has got an equally good chance of winning. It is fair to say that the inaugural season of the Indian Super League, was under-committed and overachieved.
That said, the quality of football was below par on many occasions. Because of the foreign elements involved, walking into the stadium with a great deal of hope and expectation would not be unreasonable. But expecting it to be Premier League quality would be wishful thinking, no? We could leave the stadium comparing ISL with the top five leagues of Europe, or we could be saying, “Hang on a minute, when was the last time this kind of a crowd showed up for an I-League game?”
But this season’s ISL is sure to add more drama and excitement. Indian players who weren’t allowed to play in season 1 due to some club formalities, have been bought this year. No player in the auction went club-less. Sunil Chettri and Robin Singh are the marquee signings for Mumbai City FC and Delhi Dynamos respectively, two of India’s star players. Balwant Singh, Jeje, and Subhash Singhan are the other bright Indian talents to look forward to. The likes of Lucio, John Arne Riise and a few other foreign players have made their way into the ISL. The Indian players would be licking their lips at the prospect of playing with with some of the greatest players to grace the field.
The transition from an almost non-existent footballing country to a recognised powerhouse will take time. We essentially need to decide to give it time. And although India is ranked 155th on the FIFA rankings at this point in time, I wouldn’t bet against us climbing up the chart in the next decade or so. Either way, the Hero Indian Super League is sure to provide an intriguing spectacle for fans in India. Until then, Bajnedo siti udnedo ball, come on India, let’s football!