Indian Football – A Tale of Two Leagues


Ankan Basu: 
The current scenario which Indian Football is going through is probably the most peculiar things in World football. There are two top leagues in the country which are being played simultaneously, namely INDIAN SUPER LEAGUE (ISL) AND I-LEAGUE.

The ISL has brought about money, advertisement, sense of professionalism to Indian Football market which was previously not seen in the picture. The ISL has helped to spread the beautiful game of football to different parts of the country through proper advertisement and promotions. It has been able to spread the game of football to new cities which previously didn’t have much to do with football.

Over the last four years that the ISL has been running, has brought to India some very prominent names  of the game like Luis García,Robert Pirès,David Trezeguet,Elano,Alessandro Del Piero, David James,Fredrik Ljungberg,Lúcio,Nicolas Anelka,Roberto Carlos,HélderPostiga,Marco Materazzi,FlorentMalouda, Diego Forlán, John Arne Riise, Robbie Keane. These names have certainly notched up the interest of the spectators  but in reality apart from a few, others have just made up the numbers. Definitely the local Indian players have had the opportunity to share the dressing rooms with these prominent faces and also to practice with them day and day out but the positive effects of it are yet to be seen.

Making ISL a closed league has meant that there is lack of competitiveness in the league and half way through the season players can sense that at what position their respective teams are going to finish and hence the motivation lacks.

The I-LEAGUE on the other hand is played on rather in a traditional way with proper promotion and relegation basis and is more the kind of league which runs in most of the established footballing nations around the world.

I-LEAGUE lacks the promotions and the advertising which the ISL gets and doesn’t involve the amount of money which the ISL deals with.


With two leagues running simultaneously I-LEAGUE teams have been hit hard, as most of the established Indian players have moved on from the I-LEAGUE to the ISL .The I-LEAGUE teams have no choice but to deal with the left over players who didn’t find an ISL team. Though there is hardly any difference in the quality of the Indian players but the difference in the quality of foreign players are very much evident between the two leagues.

For all football lovers in India it’s now just a watching game to whether and how AIFF brings about the much awaited merger which would re-unite the Indian Football into one league which will in reality help the players to grow as they would get to play more number of matches during a season to which they are currently deprived off.  And if it doesn’t happen soon, then the Indian clubs both form ISL and I-LEAGUE may face an Asian ban for running two leagues simultaneously.

By Ankan Basu


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