India finds many a similarities on its foundation of football to that of world’s football history, and its own 40 year cycles of reinventions every century. The world witnessed its first attempt to codify the rules of the game in 1848 by Cambridge University, London and nine years down the line, it saw the formation of its oldest surviving football club: Sheffield FC in 1857.
Back here in the later half of the 19th century, exactly 40 years away from world history, India articulated its first rules of the Durand Cup in 1888, and in a similar fashion set shop for the country’s oldest surviving club in mainstream football, Mohun Bagan AC.
The then little known Kolkata club went on to record famous victory over Yorkshire Regiment in 1911. Those were early days of emergence of football in the country, leading India to the golden era in 20th century (1951 to 1970). While the world football reinvented the game both theoretically as well as scientifically, presenting over 3.5 billion fans across globe their first choice of sport; India, however lost its shine somewhere mid-way.
Today in the 21st century, once again the country of 1.3 billion is back on a stage to rewrite sporting history in football as we complete the 40 year cycle from that of the golden era (1970).
With the onset of Indian Super League (ISL), India seeks to write a new chapter in creating the footballing culture with renewed energy, investment and commitment by the stakeholders – IMG Worldwide, Reliance Industries, Star India and the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Leveraging the strengths of all its partners, the Indian Super League envisions creating new football powerhouses in this part of the world, which will rise to global prominence as the country and the sport further develops.
The announcement of the eight ‚League Partners‘, is the first major step towards setting the pace for the realization of a dream – the dream of a billion plus Indians to experience and embrace the beauty of football.
One of the prominent criteria in the process of ‚League Partners‘ selection had been the commitment towards grass roots development – an essential ingredient required for a systematic growth of the sport. In the first year itself, Indian Super League along with its eight Partners aims to reach out to 1 million kids through an in-school program and community development. Going forward, the League envisage to have grassroots training module, on the lines of FIFA approved programs, for age specific coaching starting with U-8 and by the year five, each League Partners to have a full-time academy.
„It is with great pride that I welcome the eight League Partners to the Indian Super League. We want to unlock the unbound aspirational energy of our youth through grassroots and community development programs,“ said Nita M. Ambani. „Together, we will strive to build a vibrant ecosystem that will provide impetus to football in India. As Mentor of the League, I commit myself to development of football as a major sport for the youth of India.“
India is uniquely placed as the youngest nation on the planet in terms of demography and poised to emerge as an economic superpower, having all the potential and aspiration to revel its sporting prowess.
„Today’s announcement is the culmination of several years of hard work and strategic planning,“ said Michael Dolan, Chairman and Chief Executive of IMG and Chairman of IMG Reliance. „We are enormously pleased at the level of interest the creation of the Indian Super League has generated. We believe the League signals the beginning of a new era in the development of football in India and, in the future, will be the source of great pride for the people of India.“
Given the burgeoning interest in football and the country’s long association with the sport, the Indian Super League desires to position itself among the best footballing competitions across the world, as an entertaining and high quality league that would engage hundreds of millions of fans and drives improvement in playing standards.
„Inspiring our nation to excel is a priority and comes naturally to us at Star India. With our expertise in marketing and production of sports content, our task is cut out to etch football in the sports culture of India,“ said Uday Shankar, CEO of Star India. „The nation has been awaiting its second sport for far too long. And we’re delighted to collaborate with esteemed partners in the business and sports world to make that happen!“
Indian Super League represents transformational progress for Indian football, progress that will be good for players, fans and the League Partners.It’s an opportunity to be part of one of the most exciting new properties in football anywhere in the world and Indian Federation, the AIFF has extended all its help for the success of the League.
Praful Patel, President, AIFF says, „No period in India’s long and proud history in football is more exciting than today. This day will go down in memory as a special day for Indian football as eight high profile celebrities & corporates are being introduced into the sport through Indian Super League. With IMG Reliance & Star providing the perfect foundation, the League has become an unstoppable force which would change Indian football.“
„I hope the grassroots obligations of the franchises gives a huge push to the development of the game. Along with the world class infrastructure that is being created for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, and AIFF’s expression of interest to host 2015 and 2016 FIFA Club World Cup, Indian football is definitely turning a new leaf in its history.“
Kushal Das, General Secretary, AIFF too is a firm believer of the fact that Indian football needs an innovative approach to amass popularity. „I have always believed Indian football needs an innovative and experimental format like Indian Super League to bring the fans back to the stadiums. Today, with the kind of owners and organisers that we have behind Indian Super League, we have the perfect recipe to a successful professional tournament. I wish the Indian Super League all the best.“