This article was originally published on the Penalty Magazine website.
Football, Soccer, Fußball. Call it what you will but there’s no question, its popularity is almost worldwide. One country where football isn’t the dominant sport though is India. The creation of the ISL or the Indian Super League is the newest attempt to popularise the sport in the country. An exciting league is the foundations of fan interest in football. A prime example in developing an interest in football is USA. During the recent World Cup it was noted that a love for the sport had reached a new high. This is in partly thanks to the MLS going from strength to strength. Part of the early interest and success of the MLS was thanks to their ability to target worldwide names which gained them attention with the worldwide footballing community.
Over the years the MLS have gained some of the biggest names in world football to their ranks. David Beckham, Kaka, Alessandro Nesta, and Thierry Henry have all graced the American public with their talents. This is something the Indian Super League has attempted to emulate with the allowance for teams to sign marquee players. Scanning the squads of the teams there are a lot of players that have shone in some of the biggest leagues in the world as well as on the international stage. Although the likes of David Trezeguet, Alessandro Del Piero and Nicholas Anelka may see their time in India as a chance of getting one last paycheque they could also see it as a chance to build a footballing legacy. The names on the back of their shirts were once some of the most sought after in the world and although their talents may have diminished slightly they will still be held in high regard by some fans. These fans will follow their careers in India and hopefully this will mature into an interest in the team that their player plies his trade for. With the teams residing in India’s major city they will already have a core fan base that they can tap into. The bigger marquee players will attract these fans as well as fans from overseas. With more fans comes more money which can be invested in developing home grown talent.
India is the second most populous country in the world so the chance of there being a future footballing star is pretty high. For this player to reach their potential they must have the opportunity to grow as a player and improve. The new league will bring this. If India is the sleeping giant they are regularly labelled as then they will need the right footballers to aid in their awakening. The marquee players that have been attracted can aid in the development of local talent. Through their amassed years they will be able to coach the young players on certain things, passing on their knowledge to an audience that will likely respect their opinions and are eager to learn from some of the games greats.
Currently ranked 158th in the FIFA rankings there is a lot of room for growth within Indian football. The creation and success of the Indian Super League can help fast track their rise up the international table. With Atlético de Kolkata boasting a stadium with a 120,000 capacity there is hope that the Indian public will really get behind the idea. If football wants to continue its worldwide dominance then the interest of the Indian public is an important commodity to possess.
The first Indian player in the Premier League could be an excellent money maker for his respective team. We only have to take South Korea’s Park Ji Sung as an example. During his time at Manchester United he brought in millions for the club thanks in part to the hero worship he receives in his homeland. With the population of India dwarfing South Korea’s by a heavy margin the money making ability the Indian player will have could be epic. So even if fans of Premier League teams may choose not watch the ISL they can surely see the benefit of developing India’s talent and in keeping an eye on how the league progresses.
You never know in ten years we may no longer be lauding the skills of a Brazilian or Argentinian but an Indian.