I LEAGUE- PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
With Churchill Brothers winning I league for season 2012-13, it completed half a dozen uninterrupted grips of Goan clubs. The power centre of Indian football has clearly moved from Bay of Bengal to shining Goan beaches of Arabian Sea. Previously known as NFL, premium domestic competition of football in India has sailed smoothly on Goan Armada in new Avatar. With the test of time, the competition has faced a lot of challenges and happy endings. It has IMG group to fill pockets and Arrows has produced good youngsters and stood acid test of relegation successfully purely on merits. But thin crowd in stadiums, fewer viewership (European league is much ahead), sweating players in scorching heat, low revenue, representation by a few pockets of India are few of the many problems, looming large. AIFF must have to deal them.
One of the many things that could be done can be classified in 2 major heads, long term and short term plans. In short terms, matches can be shifted to evening timings to increase viewers on and off the game. Especially in summer, it will release more adrenaline in the players. More sponsors with lucrative offers can be searched and joined in by the league at both club level and AIFF level. Pouring more money at all levels will invite more talents to run on the ground and help in extracting most out of them. Some pockets, where soccer is popular and some where soccer has to be popular, has to be spotted and represented in format for gaining new grounds. At present, it lacks pan Indian look and looks more like an East-West war. A leaf can be plucked from J league or MLS. In the long term, new talents have to be built to produce more heroes for the public. Infrastructure, coaching facilities, technical assistance, and viewership are some of the many demanding tasks that have to be achieved.
The popularity of football can easily be seen in any city where spotting common people wearing European Soccer clubs jersey is not a rare site. Viewership of Soccer is consistency on the up and it’s bête noire cricket has reached a saturation point. More and more leagues and cups are joining the television channels each year. All AIFF is to do is to shift this global Amor to local Pyaar.