sábado, 8 de outubro de 2016
ISL again brings the style, but football in India still lacking substance
On October 7, Mumbai City FC joined North East United at the top of the Indian Super League (ISL) table with a narrow 1-0 home win. The goal came from the penalty spot, with Diego Forlan smashing home after Reagan Singh had fouled Pronay Halder.
It was in keeping with the South American flavour that the tournament has had in its opening week. Mumbai’s opening win, away to FC Pune City, had come courtesy a goal from Matias Defederico, twice capped by Diego Maradona during his time in charge of the Argentine national side. Forlan provided the assist.
North East, who top the table after having won their first two games, had beaten Zico’s FC Goa 2-0 in the most impressive result. Both goals had come from Emiliano Alfaro, the Uruguayan whose itinerant career has taken in clubs like Lazio in Italy and Al Wasl in the UAE.
The Latin theme extends to Atletico de Kolkata, who followed up a nervy 2-2 draw at home against Chennaiyin FC, the defending champions, with a 1-0 win away at the Sachin Tendulkar-owned Kerala Blasters. Over 54,000 watched that game, but with Graham Stack, who was part of Arsenal’s Invincibles squad in 2003/04, so overworked in goal, it could well be a long season for winless Kerala.
Chennaiyin, pegged back by an Iain Hume penalty against Kolkata, were then shocked at home, as Delhi Dynamos, led by two goals from Marcelinho, the Brazilian winger who has played most of his career in Greece, won 3-1. For John Arne Riise, the ex-Liverpool star who once played for Delhi, it was a chastening experience in Chennaiyin colours.
Despite lively and enthused crowds, the on-field standard remains fairly poor. The big names are out for one last big pay day, and there are few Indian players of genuine quality. The hope is that the presence of legends inspires the young Indian players to scale greater heights, but for that to happen, there will have to be some consensus on how football is run in the country.
Right now, with the ISL and the I-League fighting for the same space, things are a mess. The ISL coaches get less than three months with the squads to inculcate their playing philosophies, before the scene switches to the largely empty stands of the lower-profile I-League.
The tagline for the ISL is "Let’s football." For that to happen properly, India needs a league of its own, one that isn’t stuck between two very different stools.