Dimitar Berbatov, Ian Hume, Miku; players we’d have never seen ply their trade in Indian football arrived on our soil. It has seen only a few footballers go abroad to play, namely Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Baichung Bhutia. Indian supporters expected there to be more exports but it hasn’t panned out as such. Players like Subrata Pal, Jeje Lalpekhlua had trials abroad, but that hasn’t happened yet because of the fact that they lack the adequate experience and knowledge to play abroad.
Even among the guys that did go to play abroad, only a few succeeded. The I-League was successful to an extent, but to get Indians addicted and engaged to football, Reliance Group entertained the idea of starting a new sister-league called Indian Super League. They followed the model of the Major League Soccer in the USA, which means to say they have a draft-oriented procedure of picking up players.
In its 4th season now, the ISL has been a joy to watch and what’s to add is that the number of foreign players have increased as they wanted better exposure to the local players, including things such as improvement of grassroots level, in order to pull in youngsters to the game, as it’s mainly a cricket-dominated country.
They’ve succeeded I can tell you, the crowds that are gathering in the stadiums are just exemplary as Indians are now interested in football, the IPL way as the group followed the T20 cricket tournament’s success by having superstar owners that would entertain fans that are new to the sport. Some would call it unnecessary, but the sport of football and IFF concluded that something like this was needed to get the sport popularized.
The ensuing season of the ISL has gone as planned as they have ceased to amaze the fans as the crowds have been raked in due to advertisements and improvement of the standard of football as well. Several international managers were recruited by clubs too, as that made it appropriate and lucrative to players of a better standard.
Bengaluru FC have been sensational this season as they topped the table and found themselves worthy challengers to the rest of the top 4. Goa’s Coro and Bengaluru FC’s Miku are the top-scorers respectively. Sunil Chettri and Jeje have been good at scoring goals, so it will be a face-off between two top strikers in Indian football.
The ISL was constructed in such a way that the rest of the world would appreciate Indian football as the previous league was beleaguered and didn’t have the necessary publicity to get renowned footballers over. Bengaluru FC can be all the more proud of their performance this season as it is their first season in the ISL and it’s possible that they could repeat the performance of their I-league winning season of 2013/14, along with another title soon after that.
It’s not just the draft method that’s followed; players are allowed to move on transfers too. It’s clear that fans around the country will be glued to their television sets and mobile phones to check the scores, especially The Kanteerava Stadium where people will find it impossible to hear themselves as it’s quite a big thing that the home team is contesting a final against an opponent of such geographical proximity.
Enzo Roca has been brilliant for Bengaluru as he has brought a new brand of football to the city after Ashley Westwood’s departure, who had his own style of football. John Gregory too has impressed with his squad to an extent and it’s possible that it could be a blockbuster clash that we all expect. What will also be interesting that there will be a clash of footballing intelligence or culture as there are many Tamil-speaking people in the city of Bangalore who will be rooting for Chennaiyin.
Sunil Chettri and Miku will be expected to work well in tandem for the BFC team, while Jeje will be favourite to score for Chennaiyin. What’s also been seen in Indian football that it’s gotten more expansive gradually. It used to be long-ball football at first but later it’s changed to a more strategic build-up play that will see the football be more attractive.
There’s another possibility that it could rain in Bangalore today and that will make it the most entertaining contest possible as football is best played under rainy clouds they say, at least that’s what the footballers tell us as it reminds them of their adolescent days when they played football in the rains.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, S. Bose, Juanan, J. Johnson, R. Bheke, E. Partaalu, Dimas, S. Chettri, S. Haokip, Udanta Singh, N. Fedor
Singh, Jalrinzuala, Sereno, Mailson, Inigo Calderon, G. Nelson, D. Ganesh, Bikramjit Singh, F. Fernandes, J. Lalpekhlua, Raphael Augusto