Sunday, December 21, 2014

10 ways to improve Indian Soccer League as ATK lift the trophy in its first edition

Atletico De Kolkata (ATK) did themselves, their owners and their  fans proud by winning the first edition of the Indian Super League in soccer defeating Kerala Blasters by an unstoppable header-off-a-corner from Md. Rafique at the very last minute of the injury time in the final played at the  DY Patil stadium in Mumbai, today. The league that started ten weeks back with a pace, that hasn’t been seen for a long time in Indian football, slowed down in the middle and picked up again at the fag end . The final was a match appropriate for the occasion with some great shots, passing , movements & saves & the solitary goal. Although, without at all grudging ATK, led by Luis Garcia, their hard-earned trophy;  I’d say Goa FC should’ve been the appropriate winner of the league, going by their on-the-field formations and run-of-form in the last 4 weeks but they lost out in the semis in the heart-breaking penalty shoot-out, preparations for which appeared to be lacking in them. It’s now to be seen whether Indian players joining the local I-league lift up the games of their respective teams.
Sourav Dada Ganguly , part-owner of ATK , not only repeated his feat of scoring the maximum in his debut appearance,  reminiscent of his century in the Lords test against England in 1996, but had also made a coup of sorts by tying up with Atletico De Madrid , from the Spanish premier league, for a long-term association with  ATK  and the  development of the game at the grassroots.
Hopefully the future editions of ISL will  match up to the speed & quality of the game in top premier soccer leagues in the world and not just be satisfied in matching up with the number of spectators viewing the game on field, television and digital space. There isn’t any doubt that  India is a great market for soccer (or any other buyable thing , for that matter, in this densely overpopulated economically-growing country of 1.3 billion) but what is going to sustain the product is consistently improving quality of the product without over-charging the customers.  Here’s my ten ways in which ISL can improve in the next editions presented in a mix of serious suggestion and light-hearted hints.

1.    Have more current international players from the top leagues in the world than overage bearded have-been and also-rans playing the league. This will improve not only the pace of the game but also help the local clubs grow-up faster over the years in keeping with the demands of International football.

2.    Have coaches with successful track-records in club games instead of  player-managers. Dual responsibility is a difficult, if not impossible,  task in this specialized world .

3.    The foreign-player to Indian -player ratio should be in favor of the former for at least  a decade  more before the yawning gap between Indian soccer and International soccer can come close to a respectable distance. To quote Plato, the great Greek philosopher, “Equating the unequal is inequality.”

4.    Ask Nita Ambani to reduce her presentation speech to one page.

5.    Keep Abhishek Bachhan away from the winning podium unless his team , in the unlikely scenario, wins the league.

6.    Put the balance sheets of the franchisees in the public domain to make the ownership patterns, incomes & expenses  transparent and to dispel the rumor that ISL, like some other newly-sprouted professional sport league(s), has become the vehicle for parking ill-gotten money of politicians and crony capitalists.

7.    Introduce goal-line technology to reduce gross referring errors , as in the Kerala-ATK league match in Kochi,

8.    Get fitter and better referees who can be strict on the field specially on the penalty-box where mistakes can cost a team a championship, as that happened with Goa FC against ATK in their last league match in Kolkata.

9.    Stop the nationalistic jargon and the national anthems before the start of every match as its grossly inappropriate. The game can also start off immediately without the Jing-bang of synchronized fireworks and the stupid-cacophony of  microphone cheers. Instead, announcing the line-up at the start could be better where the players can acknowledge their names one by one.

10. Finally connect the ISL to the I-league, sometimes in the near future, by promoting top two teams of the latter and relegating the two bottom teams of the former. Otherwise all this hoopla about development of Indian football will soon unmask itself as development of the Indian  moneybags like what’s happening in the floating IPL in cricket.

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