Is an IPL-style football league the answer to Indian football's woes?
I personally have severe doubts. The game of football cannot be compared with cricket or any other sport for that matter. The football league system has been in place across the globe for many decades and even in India the national league under different names has been around for now 14 years.
The I-League, India's Professional Football League, currently at the end of its third season is still in a developmental stage and the path taken by the All India Football Federation in expanding the league by two teams every years seems to be slowly bearing fruits. But it has a long way to go to be a real professional league.
Since the old National Football League was renamed after 11 seasons to I-League three years back the league has grown in size, the general standard of football has improved and the game has spread to new centres like Shillong and Pune. And in the new season the AIFF plans to add New Delhi and Bangalore to the league. But at the moment it isn't clear if new sides will receive the slots or if existing teams will be given those with no other choice.
Would a Football IPL hamper the I-League's development?
It depends on what plans the people behind the Football IPL have.
The information currently available is very patchy and different sources say different things with the people behind the project being very tied-lipped. This makes it difficult to judge the ideas and plans.
If it is planned as a six/seven week summer intermezzo, then surely it wouldn't have such a big effect on the I-League.
Then such a football IPL could actually supplement the I-League and the two could co-exist.
Still if finance, media coverage and fan focus is taken away from the I-League to the Football IPL, then it would hamper the further overall development of the game.
But there are loads of things which one would have to look at to make a Football IPL a reality.
Who would be the players, is there space in the international football calendar and many more issues.
A non-starter is getting the current stars of world football to play in India due to their allegiance to their respective clubs and countries. Then you have football World Cup’s and Continental championships every other year. So a football IPL would have to rely on players who have just retired or former stars.
Would a Zinedine Zidane come out of retirement to play a Football IPL?
I would say no, except he is offered a ridiculous amount of money which he has to accept.
Further questions would be, would Industrialists be willing to pay big bucks for such former stars, would the Indian public like to see such players in action. And how would be the local Indian players fit in.
A key question which no one seems to look at is infrastructure. We don’t have the stadia to host such a four/five city football IPL at the moment.
It reminds me of the English Premier League's match 39 idea which had India on their radar as one of the potential venues around the globe though we didn't even fulfil the basic criteria to be able to host such a game.
But still the Football IPL is an idea which should be pursued and evaluated if something worthwhile could be developed. Only it shouldn’t hamper the general development of Indian football or take money away from the I-League and the national team.
It should be more about football first, then about entertainment and money.
The ongoing IPL fiasco should be a stern warning.
Do let me know if you agree with me or have a different opinion on this...