The IPL of Football – Indian Super League?
Swashbuckling opening and closing ceremonies, gorgeously lit stadiums, popular Bollywood stars dancing to popular tunes, A-List Bollywood stars in attendance, Chief Ministers and other political dignitaries in attendance with industrialists – these have become the norm when it comes to every league in India. Blame the Indian Premier League for setting such a shallow definition to sport in our country. However, at the end of it all the purpose for the madness remains the same – big money and large viewership. The Indian Super League in its inaugural edition has simply failed to offer the ecstasy often mistaken as excitement, the IPL has pampered Indian viewers with over the past few years.
The ISL is the IPL of football, you say? No it isn’t. Where do we begin? Pre-match show? The ISL doesn’t even have a quality pre-match show. If a football enthusiast were asked whether he would’ve spend the 30 minutes before kick-off listening to Mayanti Langer, of all people talk sense about football and watch Big Boss, albeit the timings aren’t the same, Big Boss would be the popular choice. Mayanti Langer asking questions like, ‘Do you like the football here? Do you think your team will win? How did you like shopping here? YadaYadaYada’ seems like a very poor attempt at the standards set by anchors of the IPL and the quality of discussions there.
However, lets ignore that for now. Then comes the experience while watching. As Indians, we are accustomed to cricketing clichés with the relentless overdose of cricket in recent times. We understand commentators when they say a batsman is seeing the ball like a football but do we really understand seeing football like football? Ads and music at every throw in making ‘The Beautiful Game’ look like a charity gimmick in India. We get it when wicket-keepers have hands safe as a bucket but what about the goalkeeper making terrific saves? Lower middle-order batsmen are often match-winners who are big strikers of the ball but what about strikers who strike the ball from over 25 yards? None of these borrowed clichés from other sports that we use in cricket help us understand a game that commentators hired from abroad talk to us about.
All said and done, the inaugural ISL greeted Indian football enthusiasts to a little taste of big name football on the shores of our cricket-obsessed country. Whether following the IPL model, the ISL has done more good than bad to Indian Football is something we will only know in a few years but the fact that names like Romeo Fernandes, Mohammed Rafique and Sandeep Nandy are now known to Indian households is a tiny little plus among this short-lived commercial gimmick that is the ISL.