KEIR RADNEDGE at the DEAD SEA: Former England midfielder Peter Reid has offered a glowing report on the inaugral season of the Indian Super League.
Reid, who played for Everton and Manchester City among other clubs before launching into management was hired by Mumbai City. It was his second foreign management post after a spell in charge of Thailand and one he thoroughly enjoyed.
Speaking at the Soccerex Asian Forum at Jordan’s King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre, Reid dismissed the misconception that Indian sports fans have time only for cricket.
He said: “Bearing in mind that this was only the first season the gates were the fourth highest aggregate in the world after the English Premier League, the Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga so that tells you how the Indian public will come out to watch football.”
The league ran for three months from September to December with eight teams and the season reached a grand climax with Atlético de Kolkata beating Kerala Blasters in the title play-off.
Reid said: “They organised it really well. There were a few teething problems which was only to be expected in all the circumstances.”
He appreciated “a rule where you had to play six Indian players – which was fantastic and goes down into the grassroots game. Everyone was delighted with the first season and are keen to build on it.”
Veteran players such as Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet were contracted to the clubs whose general standards Reid compared with the second division [Championship] in England. The competition would prove invaluable for the development and encouragement of the domestic Indian game and its own players.
Reid said: “Technically the Indian players were good on the ball. In terms of managing the game they were a bit short but that will improve with time and experience.”
He reserved particular praise for the two most notable foreign imports in his own Mumbai club, ex-France striker Nicolas Anelka and former Germany midfielder Manuel Friedrich.
Reid hailed the attitude of both players as “fantastic” while acknowledging this might appear surprising with regard to Anelka whose demeanour in English football earned him infamy as the Incredible Sulk.
“Anelka was brilliant with the Indian boys in training,” said Reid, “and out on the pitch he was fantastic so that was a big help.”
# # # #