Nov 01 2013
After all the hype around it initially, the Indian Football League gets pushed back further
Speculation has run rife since the time plans for the league were first made public earlier this year, but the idea had run into trouble even earlier with the established I-League clubs banding together a couple of years ago to oppose their players being roped into the extravaganza.
Around July, IMG-Reliance went before the executive committee of the AIFF to make a presentation on the contours of the tournament that they wanted to run between January and March next year involving eight city-based franchises. “We will make a detailed presentation about the proposed tournament before the executive committee of AIFF. We will also put before the AIFF how we are going to execute our plans like appointment of a technical committee for the tournament,” an IMG-Reliance official said. “We will give details of how we would market the tournament. Basically we want to improve the profile of Indian football, take the game to the masses, including at the grassroot level,” he added.
A number of players were signed up including former India captain Baichung Bhutia, and talk abounded about the “icon” player each franchise was looking at with names like David Beckham, Michael Owen, Raul Gonzales Ronaldinho and Kaka were bandied about. AIFF senior vice-president Subrata Dutta was quoted as saying that “IMG-R has already signed up some of the biggest names in world football that will be the marquee players for the eight franchises.”
A few days ago, IMG-R dropped a bombshell when it said that the league stood to start later in the year. After all the hype that had been built up around the event, particularly after the Badminton Association of India so successfully ran its IBL, it was something of a reality check. Simply bringing in former stars — almost all of them retired — may have worked a couple of decades ago, but with instant connectivity and the blanket television coverage of European and South American leagues, is clearly not enough.
Today’s football fan has the luxury of sitting at home and watching the best players on the planet live on his screen. The USP therefore of having a Dwight Yorke, or a Fredrik Ljungberg, Louis Saha, Hernan Crespo and Robert Pires isn’t going to have people leaping out of their seats in joy. And when the postponement — from January to September next year — was finally made official, there was almost a sense of “I told you so” among a large section of the sporting fraternity.
“Keeping in view of the various key factors, including scheduling conflicts with the I-League and non-availability of stadium in Goa due to delay in Lusofonia Games, the committee has unanimously decided to launch the Indian Super League on a permanent window of September to November starting from year 2014,” a joint statement from the AIFF, IMG-R and Star India, who will telecast the show, said.
“The launch of Indian Super League has generated an overwhelming response not only in India but also in the overseas market over the last two weeks. Many proposed League partners and stakeholders have reached out to the organising committee with the above suggestions. These suggestions have been taken into consideration while allocating the permanent calendar for Indian Super League,” the statement added.
Unfortunately, it was not enough to paper over the cracks that were evident from the very start. The I-League has been carefully built up and the IMG-Reliance-Star tournament would have affected its progress materially, even with the massive sums of money being bandied about.
Legendary Liverpool player and manager Kenny Dalglish, former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, and former Milan and Chelseastar Marcel Desailly may have been brought on the ISL train as managers, but clearly, there is some distance for this idea to travel before it actually sees the light of day.