Ok I admit that’s a crap name, especially since it hasnt got anything to do with the senors but rather has to do with the alphabet that comes between k and m. Moreover, its not exactly a year, more like a decade. And to put the cherry on top, the L stands for league.
So, now that we have established that I suck more than a hungry baby in a topless beach when it comes to naming blogs, answer me this.
What event has marked the last decade, as far as India is concerned?
No, I am not talking of the rise of TsuNaMo or Khujliwal or Didi’s decimation of the Reds.
I am talking about the Rise of the Leagues.
It all started with Zee and Kapil Dev’s Indian Cricket League. That pissed off BCCI, who started the behemoth IPL.
The idea behind both was to develop new talents
We all know how that has turned out (all that betting stuff not withstanding). Sir Sri Sri Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Axar Patel, Rohit Sharma etc are all products of the IPL….and let’s face it they are the future of Indian cricket.
The IPL’s success in turn created Leagues out of everything, including (weirdly) some shopping websites.
Let’s measure them with two yardsticks – financial success and improvement of the young players.
I think that the first to come put of the blocks was the Hockey league, and despite some initial enthusiasm, it fizzed out. Moreover, there has not been any noticeable improvement in the quality of the players.
Then it was the turn of badminton and it was a reasonable success. However, once again, no noticeable improvement in the players.
The next big one was the Kabbadi league, and somewhat surprisingly, it turned out to be a huge hit. The player improvement thing does not work here as all the players are ours anyway.
Now, there’s going to be a tennis league. I have no doubt it will be a financial success. I mean who does not want to see Federer etc playing in person (though only the crorepatis like the Great Indian Chunkubaaz can afford the ticket) but what about kids’ improvement? The whole shebang will last a week and will include geriatrics like Pat Cash. I don’t see chances of much improvement.
And so finally we come to the greatest game on earth – the football.
Now when I was Wee Toddler Cheapo, the only league around (in India) was the Kolkata super division league, with teams like Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan Sporting, BNR, Eastern Railways, Aryan, Tollygunje Agragami, Evil Bangals etc.
Mohun Bagan is the grand old club of India, sort of like footballing royalty, the bastion of all that is good with the game. It not only competed with the British clubs in the pre-independence days but regularly defeated them as well. In fact it was the first Indian team to win the IFA shield.
This being India, jealousy reared its ugly head and the Muslims decided they wanted a club of their own – Mohammedan Sporting. So the Hindus had Mohun Bagan and the Muslims had Mohammedan Sporting.
But paradise has to be ruined and thus some bangals [there are two types of people in the world – bhadraloks (civilised gentlemen) and bangals] decided to get some of the action and formed Evil Bangals FC.
Of course there were other tournaments like Durand, Rovers, Federation Cup and IFA Shield where the Bong clubs competed against clubs from the rest of India like JCT Phagwara, BSF Jalandhar, Kerala Police, Dempo, Salgaocar, HAL, Mahindra, Air India, Churchill Brothers etc.
Initially, the rule was – NO FOREIGNERS. But of course, the Evil corrupt Bangals bribed the powers that be and changed the rules and started importing players. And one of them became the first foreign footballing megastar – Chima Okorie. Many came after him, notably Chibuzor, Christopher, Emeka, Bernard et all but none of them made as big a mark as Chima.
It was only in the early 2000s that the next megastar appeared on the scene – the Brazilian Jose Ramirez Barreto.
Other notable stars of the last 10 years include Dudu, Yakubu, Ranti Martins and Odafa Okolie.
One reason for the absence of ore stars in the 80s and 90s was the reservation. At first, only one foreigner was allowed in the 11, then it became 2, and now it is 3.
From the middle/late 90s onwards the AIFF got off its collective arses and somehow managed to organise a National League. This being the AIFF (ruled/presided over by a dead man), by the mid noughties the league became a shamble and so the clubs got together and formed the version 2 of that league, now called the I League. It has also brought into action the franchisee clubs Bengaluru FC, Mumbai FC and Pune FC.
Now, Indian football never was world class (irrespective of nostalgic comments made by our grandparents) but it most certainly was Asian standard. Till the late 1980s, early 1990s India achieved respectable results in Asian Games, World Cup qualifiers etc. India regularly produced solid good football players till the 1990s – the last of whom was Bhaichung Bhutia.
And then it all slowly went tits up. Now our strikers can’t strike, our defenders can’t defend and our midfielders do a great impression of headless chickens. Some say nadir was reached when we lost to Nepal and Afghanistan in the recent SAAF Games. But I say have patience people, nadir is still yet to be reached.
And it is at this condition that we have the Hero Indian Super League.
Credit where its due, some of the matches have been really exciting. It gladdens the heart to see full houses in football stadiums in Kolkata, Guwahati, Goa and Kerala and surprisingly Chennai (Pune has been a total disgrace with its near empty stadium). Moreover playing with the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Robert Pires, Nico Anelka, Elano, David James, Luis Garcia (the c*nt), Bernard Mendy, Matrix Materazzi, the Greek captain etc – all players who have successfully played at the highest level. These guys have been there and done that (in Anelka’s case, been everywhere) and if the Indian lads can imbibe even 5% of their skills and temperament etc, it would be a good improvement.
So far so good.
But as always, a couple of things can be made better.
- Currently, the team consists of 6 foreigners and 5 Indians. We all know that the more the number of Indians, the more the chance of crapness. So, am not advocating any change there. But what I would like to see is at least one under 19 player in every team. 8 regular under 19s playing at this level can only be a good thing.
- You all know about the ISL. But how many of you know that the Durand Cup was also going on? It got almost o media coverage. You know when the first Durand Cup was held? 1888. Its simply the THIRD OLDEST FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT IN THE WORLD. This is a historic trophy people and deserves much much much better. The AIFF has to get its act together again and get the scheduling right. The Durand demands a dedicated schedule in the Indian football calendar.
- Some people have lots of cash. They are multi crorepatis (like the Great Indian Chunkubaaz) and few lakhs here and there are like change for them. That’s why they don’t need to think twice before paying money to buy some foreign players. Now as long as these layers are Del Piero, Elano or Nicolas Anelka, its all fine. But, when it stops being fine and goes into farce is when the players are Eric Djemba Djemba (considered by Lord Wrigley Sir Fergie to be his second worst signing ever) and Andre Santos (too bad even for the Arsenal defense…THE ARSENAL DEFENSE people, the greatest defender they have ever produced is a Chelsea legend and the Oxford University Press is putting up a picture of the squad beside the entries ‘shambolic’ and ‘spineless’ in their new dictionary coming out in 2015)
Come on crorepati people, instead of wasting money on that shower of shit, how about putting that money in good use in grassroot football, in professional coaching etc?
P.S. If the senior world up winning cricketer indicated by the Mudgal report turns out to be Virender Sehwag, I will stop watching cricket for life.