THE INDIAN SUPER LEAGUE is into its fourth edition, a year younger than Bengaluru FC. These four years have seen ISL undergo a lotof changes but certain things keep reminding us that the competition still has some way to go before it becomes a league in the truest sense.
As Joe Morrison (not just him but since his opinion would hold great matter, quoting the man) on the TFG Indian Football podcast said that it should be called a Indian Super Cup or a tournament instead of a league. The reason being, the table toppers at the end of the season does not win the title as there is a knockout between the top four. And the winner takes it all along with something for the runners-up.
To add to the number of flaws, it has something more bizarre! It's about the coaches, who don't have a good history in the short 'history' of the 'league'.
Except the 2017-18 season, the previous three editions have been a two-month event with eight franchises. The current season is a four-month affair with the addition of two more teams as a result a total of 10 teams.
Therefore we'll only be looking at the eight teams that has been part of ISL since the inception. ISL can't do without the glitz, glamour and no-one is against it as it is needed for the sport to spread through and reach out to more number of folks (or rather we would like to believe it that way).
With that comes some big names in terms of crowd-pullers. Since 2014, ISL has had big names such as Roberto Carlos, Nicolas Anelka, Materazzi, Zico, to name a few. All these were the best in their prime playing days and were roped in as coaches/players across the eight teams.
ISL has their own rules to follow and part of it was getting such big overseas personalities to coach/play for the teams and keep the Indian origin coaches as the assistants or play the second fiddle. So much for developing 'Indian football'.
These former players came and won many hearts among the European/English league watching crowd/fans and to some extent one must admit that Indian football did gain some eyeballs.
The problem in getting these star names were that very few delivered as some of them failed at such an extent that there were fall-outs between them and the teams. Apart from the above mentioned star names, there were some credible, English coaches who has had the experience in the likes of Peter Taylor, David Platt etc. But then again one would think, for ISL even someone like Anelka would do but then it deteriorates the quality of sport and so was the case when the Frenchman and former Chelsea player took over as Mumbai City FC's role of manager/player.
Meanwhile, for some it has also worked in their favour. For example Marco Materazzi, the Italian famously known for the head-butt incident among many others (while Zidane was coaching La Liga giants Real Madrid) could in some way clear that side of his image and take Chennaiyin FC to being champions and once at the top of the table. So there were some good and ugly sides to it.
But what lacks in the teams and their managements is patience! And to some extent it is because of shortened format of the league. But then again, that is something those in power and who appoint coaches of high calibre or not know well in advance.
The best example of where it is all gone wrong in terms of the management is Kerala Blasters who has had 7 coaches in 4 years. NorthEast United too have some mismanagement as they've had 5 coaches along with FC Pune City. It is then followed by ATK who are looking for a replacement for Teddy Sheringham (former Manchester United player) as he was sacked after a poor run in the ongoing season. KBFC had another former Manchester United coach Rene Meulesteen in charge but then replaced by David James.
What raises eyebrows here in the case of KBFC and ATK are that they look for replacement despite having some experienced Indian coaches who know the conditions as their assistant coach. Kerala has Thangboi Singto while ATK has Sanjoy Sen and also Ashley Westwood. Westwood has had the years of coaching Bengaluru FC and take them to heights but then again he has to fill in the role of an interim manager till they can get another star name.
One really can't point fingers at the management as they follow what the league organisers have asked them to.
But here, the question I want to raise is that on what basis does ISL sack experienced coaches who aren't able to produce the desired results in a short span of time. Because at the end of the day, they are human beings and they will need some time to settle in a new region/country/conditions. But they are helpless as once they get acclimatised they either don't have the job or the 'league' is over and the team finds themselves at the bottom of the table.
Therefore, it's not the teams/franchises/players but the organisers of ISL that need to go back to their drawing board and finally put meaning to two things - league and development of Indian football.
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