Mumbai: Following its first year in 2014, the Indian Super League became the fourth most-followed football league in the world. Ahead of its second edition this year, the league, for the first time held an auction for the Indian footballers.
Bagging Rs. 1.2 crore star striker Sunil Chhetri (Mumbai City FC) became the highest paid Indian footballer at the first-ever Indian Super League player auction which was held on Friday. Nine other Indian footballers, who were bid for, also earned significant amount money.
The auction in Mumbai generated a lot of interest among football fans and players. While it seemS a good sign, witnessing footballers being paid well, one can not help but compare the difference between money shelled out to buy a capped and/or uncapped Indian cricketer and footballer.
The ISL is often termed as the football’s version of the Indian Premier League. While the argument holds truth in some quarters, one has to accept that the IPL has been a success since its inception.
Here are the differences between cash-rich Indian Premier League and ISL:
The Indian Super League does not lack star power. The new football league managed to add the likes of Del Piero, David Trezeguet, Robert Pires, Nicolas Anelka, Elano Blumer, Marco Materazzi, David James and Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos to its roster.
With cricketers Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli alongside Bollywood stars Abhishek Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan and Varun Dhawan owning/co-owning teams; it adds to the chances of grabbing people’s attention.
However, ISL needs to match if not overcome distribution of star-power between owners’ box and those who are on the field. While the ISL is often being viewed as football’s version of the Indian Premier League (IPL) which also boasts of Bollywood bigwigs who own/co-own the team, cricket league’s popularity is despite the presence of star owners and not because of them.
To put it differently, if the ISL has to succeed, the presence of the movie stars and cricketers in owners’ box should not become the centre of attention at the cost of footballers who take the field.
Timing and power:
Although there are T20 leagues across most of the Test playing nations, their dates don’t clash with those of IPL. It not only helps IPL’s success but also guarantees the presence of majority of the star cricketers in the tournament. As the IPL is a BCCI-backed initiative, some may argue that other cricket playing nations don’t mess up with the Indian cricket board who vests a lot of power (financially and otherwise) in the International Cricket Council.
Indian Super League (at least for first two seasons) is scheduled when the highly-followed English Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga are in full swing. While the youth in India follow club football, its loyalty is not towards the India-born league and it may work against the ISL.
Additionally, while All India Football Federation has backed ISL, AIFF is no BCCI who can throw their weight around (if need be) to have top-notch footballers at their disposal.
The Indian Super League, although still in its early days, has remained controversy- free while IPL has had more than a handful of controversies; ranging from slapgate to spot-fixing. Yet, the cricket league still manages to enjoy people’s backing. Some may argue (and rightfully so) that the popularity ratio between football and cricket in the country favours the latter and plays a part IPL’s success.
However, one must also take into account the fact the Indian cricket team has won what’s there to be won at the highest level while the Indian football team has thus far failed to reach the standards where it would be looked at with respect at the international level.
So, if the ISL has to succeed, the attention must be paid to improve the quality of football in India. Despite the criticism BCCI is subjected to, the Board has done its bit to improve infrastructure and quality of cricket in India. Something the AIFF must do soon and consistently....