The recent creation of the indian Super League represents a huge step forward for Indian soccer, which might reach an unprecedented level of quality and popularity. If this competition continues to develop, the chances of India becoming a world power in soccer are quite significant.
Up until a few weeks ago, whenever I thought about the relationship between this vast and fascinating country called India and sports, one word came to my mind: cricket. World’s most popular game, football, was almost insignificant in this huge territory, but it seems that the things are about to change and the beautiful game will soon become a lot more familiar to Indian sport fans.
The spark which is very likely to cause a massive rise of popularity of football on Indian soil is represented by the creation of a new and exciting competition, the Indian Super League(ISL). The idea of creating this tournament has appeared in the minds of soccer lovers who have enough money to invest in this project. They were probably surprised by the fact that a country with such a huge population means nothing in the world of football and they decided to do something about it, to make a change and help the game grow fast in India.
The presence of extremely popular figures, such as Bollywood stars and legends of cricket, among those who invested in the eight teams which take part in the inaugural edition of the Indian Super league will certainly the competition gain popularity fast. During the months of October and December 2014 Indian football lovers, as well as spectators from other parts of the world, will have the chance to support one of the eight teams which make the ISL.
The project has already attracted some of the great footballers of our times, like Del Piero, Trezeguet, Pires or Ljungberg, who are towards the end of their careers, but they can still enchant crowds with their skills. They are other by many other younger and less famous foreign players, who can take advantage of this change to make some really good money in a short time span, and by India’s best players, who surely have a lot to learn from the stars they have the honour of playing with.
I have to admit that I was a little skeptikal about the success that the ISL might have in a country where cricket is way ahead other sports in terms of popularity, but thanks to the Eurosport TV channel, who bought the rights to broadcast the competition in Europe, I have already changed my opinion.
I had the chance to see the first match of the ISL, Atletico de Kolkata vs. Mumbai City FC live, and I enjoyed it. The quality of the game was similar to that of a middle-level European league, while the atmosphere inside the stadium was fantastic. It was a true celebration and a great start for the ISL.
This competition is still in its infancy, and there are many steps to be made to turn into a worldwide attraction. First of all the number of teams has to grow, just like it happens in Major League Soccer, which keeps on expanding by adding new franchises almost every two or three years, then more quality foreign players and coaches need to be attracted and help the locals improve themselves. The first signs are truly encouraging, and if the efforts towards developing this competition continue at an intense pace I expect Indian football to rise fast in international rankings. I think the Indian national team will become a powerhouse in Asia in about a decade, and I’m confident it will qualify for the FIFA World Cup in a not very distant future.
Football will never outclass cricket in popularity, but it could become India’s second sport one day if the investments in the ISL continue. I’m convinced that this great nation has a fabulous potential that will help it become a world power in soccer one day. It can’t happen overnight, but it will one day, and the ISL will be seen as the spark which ignited a true revolution in Indian football!
Mickey Mantle: Inside and Outside the Lines is a Memoir of Friendship between Mickey Mantle and lifelong fan and admirer.
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