Lets Football is the word doing the round in the Indian Football circles these days and the likes of Diego Forlan, Helder Postiga, Lucio and have definitely caught the attention of the media and fans across the world. The Indian Super League is in its third edition and with nine matches played, there are already a plenty of talking points.

Indian Players Suffering From Lack Of Playing Time

With every edition of the Indian Super League, the future of I League has become darker. Over last three year years – Pune FC, Royal Wahingdoh and Salgaocar FC have withdrawn from the I League citing bleak future of the league and step motherly treatment from the federation. A closer look at how the teams have lined will give us a clear insight that Indian Super League is doing no benefit to Indian Football. The classical case is that of Sandesh Jhingan – the pillar of the Indian team defense who played as a left back and right back for Kerala Blasters in their first two matches and clearly struggled. At a time when the national team has a dearth of central defenders apart from Sandesh Jhingan and Arnab Mondal, playing the 23 year old Jhingan as a left or a right back certainly doesn’t help either the player or the national team. Jhingan played as a central defender in the third match and put in a much improved performance

Sandesh Jhingan played as a central defender only in the third match
Sandesh Jhingan played as a central defender only in the third match

The Indian Super League rules allow the teams to play up to six foreign players in the Indian Super League and teams have not shown any intent to play more than five Indian players which means that in any round of the Indian Super League only 40 Indian players get playing time. This is a clear drop from the I League where more than 60 players get a playing time.  Also most teams have preferred to play Indian players in the defensive positions specially the right and the left back spots and most Indian wingers and strikers time have found it hard to get any playing time. This is clearly detrimental to the national team where the midfield has been found to lack creativity when playing against superior teams. Atletico De Kolkata in particular have been following this philosophy since the inaugural season and even in the two matches this season, Indian players have been deployed in defensive positions.

4/10 Indian players on the field are deployed as full-backs
4/10 Indian players on the field are deployed as full-backs

Mismatch With I League Emerges

Another interesting point that has emerged this season in the mismatch with the I League. Players like Ishfaq Ahmed and Gouramangi Singh who didn’t feature in the I League at all or made only a few appearances still make it to the starting eleven of their franchises while several of I League regulars struggle to get playing time or are sometimes not even picked by the franchises. Gouramangi Singh, once a regular for the national team has lost his place in the national team and didn’t play in the I League after the second season of the Indian Super League and quite clearly looked short of match fitness in the first couple of matches for FC Pune City. Sandip Nandy featured in just one match for Mumbai FC in the League and his lack of match fitness clearly showed in the Blasters third match against Delhi Dynamos. FC Goa too have paid the price for poor signings of the domestic players. Most of the Dempo based players played in the second division last year which is no doubt at a lower level than the I League while the likes of Sanjay Balmiuchu and Raju Gaikwad, both of whom have started in the two matches for FC Goa,  weren’t first choice starters in the I League.

Kean Lewis has looked good in the first two matches
Kean Lewis has looked good in the first two matches

In this regard, Delhi Dynamos signed the Indian players on basis of their performances and the Indian players have put in impressive performances in the their first two matches. Kean Lewis had an impressive season for Mohun Bagan and has continued his form for the Dynamos. Lewis has been a livewire on both the left and right flanks and it was his cross that was put into the back of the net by Badji. Souvik Choudhary, another key player in the Mohun Bagan was retained by Delhi Dynamos  and he too has proved his worth by decent performances in first couple of matches. Chinglensana Singh of Shillong Lajong and Lalchhawnkima too have looked solid at the back for Delhi Dynamos. Infact none of the Indian players who featured for the Dynamos in the first two matches have player for the senior Indian natioanl team. Mumbai City FC too has benefited with their signings of Indian players as both Sehnaj Singh and Pronay Halder have performed their role of holding midfielders admirably. This clearly goes to show that the franchises that have done their research on Indian players have benefited while those who have gone after reputation have struggled

Blasters Continue To Let Their Fans Down

After a disappointing second season, Kerala Blasters have failed to score a goal in their first three matches in the third season and have managed to pick up just one point. Blasters have garnered just one point from their two home games both of which were well attended by the fans. Both matches saw packed crowds and the fans were seen egging their players. At time when the attendances in the Indian Super League have dropped across Kolkata, Pune and Mumbai, the attendances in Kochi is definitely a positive thing but it is indeed sad that the team was failed to live upto its expectations.

One of the major reasons behind this has been the lack of planning in formation of the team. The team lacks a left back and coach Steve Coppell has openly admitted to this. The first set of matches has seen Josu and Jhingan fill up those spots. Blasters signed Vinit Rai and Farukh Choudhary before the season and while both are talented players they lack the experience of playing in the I League. Even the likes of Kunal Sawant, Sandip Nandy, Ishfaq Ahmed, Gurwinder Singh and Abin Muhammed weren’t I League regulars in the last season or so and were mostly injured or played only a few matches. Blasters signing of Indian players was critisced in the buildup to the season and this has clearly reflected in their performance. The absence of Rino Antao and CK Vineeth due to their AFC Cup commitments hasn’t helped their cause but this is soemthing that should have been foreseen by their management Blasters appeared a disjointed unit specially in attack and Michael Chopra fluffing up an easy chance just on stroke of half time against Delhi Dynamos summed up their performance so far

Apart from this FC Goa have lost both their matches so far and Zico will have to review his tactics or risk their chances of qualifying for the playoffs. FC Goa dished out some quality football in the first two seasons and like Blasters enjoy a good fan following. It will indeed be a big loss for the Indian Super League if the Gaurs can’t make it to the playoffs.

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