India holds its breath when Atletico de Kolkata’s fierce striker Lemessa goes past all the defenders with his flashing speed and heads on with the last man. Lemessa scores the first goal of the league, and the entire stadium erupts in euphoria and passion. Well, this is Indian Super League, unique and pushing freshness into the country’s dream of entering the biggest gala on the planet – FIFA World Cup. A visionary league, ISL aims at raising the standard of football in India and seeing it qualify for the 2026 FIFA world cup.
Co promoted by IMG-Reliance, All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Star India, the League has 8 teams representing various football traditions of the country. European clubs like ACF Fiorentina, Atletico Madrid and Feyenoord FC have stakes in these clubs along with Bollywood stars and business giants like John Abraham, Ranbhir Kapoor, Harshavardhan Neotia, Prasad V Potluri and the Videocon group.
With the lower limit for domestic players on the squad being 14, International wizards like Del Piero, Elano, David James, Materazzi and Anelka are the icing on the cake. Indians couldn’t contain their happiness when it was revealed in a press release that ISL is the best attended football league in Asia and the fifth highest football league in average attendance in the world only after Bundesliga, EPL, La Liga and Serie A, and ahead of the USA’s popular MLS, French Ligue 1 and Mexico’s Liga MX.
Accompanied by Twitter wars and a 1.2 million strong army of followers on Facebook, the matches are aired on 8 channels in India and 3 internationally. With quality matches, capturing video graphics, previews and telecasts of the league in many languages, Indians are now driven by football fever and defence of their favourites.
The closure of the league brings two co cricketers head to head in an unprecedented clash guaranteed to pump adrenaline among both football and cricket fans. Saurav Ganguly’s Atletico de Kolkata crushed the hopes of FC Goa in the semi final by defeating the side in penalty shootouts. Sachin Tendulkar’s Kerala Blasters faced stiff competition against Chennaiyin FC but managed to get past it. On paper, both the sides have fared equally well in the league. Now that we’ve reached the end of the League, all that remains to be seen is which team will bag the first Indian Super League Trophy when ‘Dada’ and ‘Master Blaster’ meet at DY Patil stadium in Mumbai!