India Football Officials Don't Believe ISL Will Fix Country's Football Woes
The new Indian Super League will kick off in India later this year, but "not everyone is convinced that it will help lift the country out of the lower echelons of the world game," according to Sudipto Ganguly of REUTERS. Cricket-centric India "languishes at 145th in the world rankings," a state of affairs that has prompted FIFA President Sepp Blatter to dub the country of 1.2 billion the "sleeping giant" of world football. While the promoters are confident the ISL "will revolutionise soccer in India," not everybody "is on board." The owners of current national champions, Goa-based I-League club Churchill Brothers, "are among the fiercest critics of the new tournament, believing it will do more harm than good." Churchill Brothers CEO Valanka Alemao said, "How do you even call it a league? You need at least six months to term yourself a league. And in any country who play the World Cup, have you ever heard of something so stupid and ridiculous as this tournament?" According to tournament organizers, franchises paid about $25M for a team for 10 years in the ISL, which "will have a fair presence of the country's film industry" in the form of actors Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and John Abraham as co-owners. Alemao: "Celebrity owners and all is great but football in our country requires a lot of dedication and a lot of hard work." All India Football Federation officials are confident such concerns can be easily addressed. AIFF VP Subrata Dutta: "Indian football had somewhat stagnated. Nothing great was happening and we were not progressing at the desirable rate. We have been hovering between 140 and 160 in rankings for many years now and we needed something big to push us forward." Many are not convinced that two leagues can co-exist, but Dutta assured that the ISL "will not diminish the existing competition." Dutta: "It will be like a curtain-raiser for the I-League, like a good starter and a good soup before the spectators are served the main course in the form of the I-League." Football writer Jaydeep Basu, whose "Stories From Indian football" is an anecdotal history of the game in the country, "does not doubt the league's success but is sceptical of how much it will benefit Indian football." Basu: "Anyone who's trying to say that it will help Indian football in improving the standards is wrong. If you could revolutionise the game with a two-month tournament then countries from Middle East would have done it many years ago" (REUTERS, 5/5).