KAUSAV BARUAH / AIPS* in GUWAHATI: While the Indian Super League managed to provide what seemed to have been missing in the country’s football, the national team’s misery remains unchanged after the slip to a worst-ever 171 spot in the FIFA World Ranking.
The inaugural edition of the ISL straightaway became the fourth-best attended league in the world with an average attendance of 24,357, behind only the German Bundesliga, English Premier League and Spanish Liga.
However, the national team has slumped 15 places so the world’s second most populous country now trails minnows such as Montserrat in the Caribbean and Sao Tome e Principe in Africa and just a rung above southern neighbours Sri Lanka.
But then India do not play enough. Their last international friendly was against Palestine on October 6 while the other was with Bangladesh in March.
The ISL provided everyone with what football needed in this country of 1.2bn, which FIFA president Sepp Blatter once called “a sleeping giant”. Despite an ideal start with the inaugural edition of ISL, Indian football organisers have a lot to think about if football in general is to progress.
Earlier, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) signed a deal with International Management Group-Reliance Industries Limited as their commercial partner by signing a 15-year agreement worth Rs 700 crore in 2010.
Ever since the tie-up, AIFF has struggled to balance issues surrounding the IMG-Reliance deal.
On the other hand, ISL has already caused problems for the pre-existing domestic championship, the I-League. The 2013-14 season ran from September to April has been delayed until January 2015 to avoid clashing with the ISL.
Critics have warned that Indian football is not likely to benefit greatly if the country’s top domestic league, the I-League, is left to rot.
Brazilian great Zico, who helped lead the transformation of domestic football in Japan, was earlier quoted saying that the existence of two separate leagues could be an impediment to the growth of the sport.
Zico, who coached FC Goa in the ISL, said: “In Japan, the difference was that everyone was playing in one league only and not two leagues like in India. Here, some of the very good players are not playing in ISL.”
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
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