One match-week into ISL 7 and it is quite evident that this edition could pan out to be extremely competitive compared to their previous Indian Super League editions.
If the introduction of two new teams had made ISL’s seventh season more ruthless, the summer transfers have made it entertaining as well. From tournament favourites Mumbai City FC getting stunned by underdogs NorthEast United FC to Kerala Blasters’ season-opening record being disrupted by ATK Mohun Bagan, the Indian Super League has already caught eyeballs with its anomalies.
And something says the rest of the season has more in store for us.
From famous European football legends like Alessandro Del Piero, Nicolas Anelka and Marco Materazzi joining ISL franchises as marquee players, to roping in A-League MVPs, the Indian Super League has evolved. While the ISL transfer window was once a grand opportunity to bring in FIFA World Cup stars to increase footfalls at the Indian stands, it has now become a chance to cater to the coach’s needs.
Players like Kristian Opseth from Adelaide United, Garry Hooper from Wellington Phoenix, or Braden Inman from Brisbane Roars would never have made the ISL roster a few seasons back. What makes ISL 7 different is the number of footballing stars with Asian football experience who are enriching the league. This will be crucial in helping ISL clubs compete in the AFC competitions soon.
PICKING RIGHT BRAINS
Like the footballing stars in the initial ISL seasons, the managers and head coaches appointed in the ISL were also more popular in Asia than proven in Asian football. From Zico to David James, hiring coaches has been an unsuccessful procedure in ISL until this season. When City Football Group (CFG) decided to buy stakes in Mumbai City FC, the oil-rich company didn’t get in a world-famous coach to manage the club but hired Sergio Lobera – a highly-proven manager in the Indian Super League.
Other clubs like NorthEast United FC, Chennaiyin FC, and Kerala Blasters have also taken the similar route by getting in tacticians like Kibu Vicuna, Csaba László and Gerard Nus, who don’t hold a brilliant resume in European football but are proven thinkers of the game.
This is a no-brainer really. It is well-documented in ISL that frequent travelling to the various states across the country has been counterproductive for footballers, who have consequently seen more injuries. While different playing styles affect a player’s injury chances differently, the immense travel was always an extra hindrance for ISL players.
However, that obstacle was lifted this season with the tournament being held in the closed doors of Goa stadiums owing to COVID pandemic. With players recovering fast, every ISL match would guarantee intensity at the least ,making this the most competitive edition of ISL ever.
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