The Indian Super League
With cricket being so ingrained into India’s society and culture, other sports have struggled, but football has always had potential. Indeed, after England won the World Cup in 1966, there was a surge of interest in football, but cricket soon became more popular. This wasn’t helped by the fact that India failed to qualify for both the 1970 and 1974 FIFA World Cups, which probably would have sparked even more interest. Despite all this, it is believed that India has approximately 500 million soccer fans.
The ISL Indian Super League is football’s latest attempt to bring the beautiful game to one of the most populated countries in the world. It aims to make football one of the dominant sports among all classes throughout India. Along with this new league comes an increased focus on the sport from sports enthusiasts to casual viewers alike, which should see the sport rise up through all levels of Indian Football.
The Indian Super League
The Indian Super League (ISL) is a men’s professional football league in India. Operated by the All India Football Federation, the top level of club football in the country, it currently holds the top spot in the Indian football system along with the I-League, the counterpart of the two premier football tournaments in India.
The ISL League was formed in 2013 at an indeterminate time during April 2014 under a five-year licence agreement between IMG–Reliance and Star Sports to establish a new football league in India which would be “equivalent to cricket’s Indian Premier League.” The deal, valued at $100 million, was intended to promote association football in India and aid the long-term development of national football, as well as bring professionalism to Indian football.
The league was planned to feature eight teams for its first season in 2014 with the goal of expanding across the nation and eventually becoming comparable to soccer leagues in Europe. The first match took place between Mumbai City FC and FC Pune City on October 12 at DY Patil Stadium, Mumbai.
Today, the ISL Super League features 11 teams with marquee players plying their trade alongside talented Indian footballers to bring up standards across the country. These soccer clubs are owned by different people from diverse backgrounds who have invested money in soccer to make it more popular.
Besides having soccer players on their roster who play professionally for soccer clubs across the world, soccer teams in the Indian Super League also have Indian soccer players who represent India internationally. These soccer players are paid quite well for their services, with some soccer players earning more than others depending on how many goals they score and whether their team wins during a season.
Since the launch of the Indian Super League, soccer has become one of the most-watched sports in India, with television viewership increasing from year to year. The league’s popularity has doubled since its inception, with social media becoming a hot platform for discussions about soccer, soccer betting, and which soccer team might win next. Soccer fans even bet on individual games which they follow online and attend in person.
The ISL is now recognized by FIFA, Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Premier League (EPL), Ligue 1, Bundesliga, Major League Soccer (MLS), among others as India’s premier football league. With this recognition coming in, top players from around the world are now showing interest in playing for clubs within this League.
Growth of Soccer Under the ISL
As well as a large number of fans, India has a growing number of professional players and teams. In fact, The Times of India claims that there are over 2,000 players who play for various clubs within India, while AOL states that there are around 25,000 players playing at various levels throughout the country. This helps provide a good platform from where Indians can develop their skills before going on to play for bigger teams in other nations.
The ISL will be the highest level of football that India has ever seen. At this point, it is unclear what effect this league will have from an economic and cultural perspective, but it should definitely help spur growth throughout all levels. This increased focus on football could also attract investors who want to use football’s popularity to improve their brands/productivity by]investing in youth initiatives and building better pitches/training facilities across India.
The impact of the ISL should not just be limited to professional players or fans, though, as there are likely to be knock-on effects at the grassroots level, which should see many more children taking up the game. It is hoped that one day these young players will be playing for the national team and bring India its first-ever major trophy, and perhaps even attract some European clubs to scout here as well.
Though it might be a while before India produces the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s of the world, this ISL should enjoy a level of success that allows them to attract some of football’s biggest stars. The league is still at its youth and brimming with potential. It is only a matter of time before it is on par with the English Premier League or the MLS.
There is no guarantee that Indian football will grow as expected, but with an investment like this, it seems likely that there is potential for success. If everything goes to plan (and it might not), who knows how big Indian Soccer could become? It may even rival cricket one day.
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