But with the coming of the ISL, Indian football seems to be gaining a lot of popularity. Most of the teams are getting a lot of support, and with the franchises investing so much on their teams, Indian football seems to be heading in a very good direction. It is not only helping the players to have a secure future financially, but also gives them a chance to display their talent and learn from the pool of foreign players in the tournament who come in with so much experience. It gives players the hunger to compete at the top most level and learn to perform under pressure.
The glamour quotient due to presence of film stars, popular sports-persons and celebrities who own the teams also brings a lot of their fans to the games. Sports and film celebrities like Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Ranbir Kapoor and John Abraham themselves rope in the big crowds to the stadiums and follow the games, making football more popular in India. The statistics speak for themselves. In the first season itself ISL became the most attended football league in Asia and the fifth most in the world.
Some of the franchises have also worked at the grass-root level. With the kick off of the
Grass-roots Development Program, the ISL is aiming to provide around 10 million youngsters with football facilities. This is a very healthy sign for the future of Indian football. These youngsters alone will someday determine the future chances of India becoming a footballing superpower at the international level.
One might fear that ISL may face problems, like the IPL is facing currently. Yes, the chances are always there. But it is still a league which is developing, so it is too early to start talking about that.
Whether ISL will replace the existing domestic I-league is another question, but it is certainly helping these state players who do not play for the national team, to showcase their talent and enhance the bench strength. It creates competition, where players don’t take their spot in the team for granted.
Indeed, Indian football has been a sleeping giant and only the future can tell where it’s boundaries lie.
- Pratik Mahajan