The recent seasons have witnessed a significant rise in promising young players who are waiting for the right opportunities.

Now that the ISL has established its supremacy in Indian football, it’s time for growth. The sport is still in its nascent stage in the country and there is a tremendous scope for development.

The 2020-21 season saw a huge number of young players rising into limelight. They proved the amount of talent that the country possesses and have grasped attention of thousands of fans. However, there have also been some players who were picked up by the ISL outfits, but hardly received any game time. In the clubs’ defence, the league format is still short and it makes more sense for them to rely on the experienced players than the youngsters.

Is there a solution to this? Can the league do something in their capacity to help young players? Like most of the European big leagues, the ISL requires an independent league for reserves.

Today, we list down five major reasons why there is a need for a reserves league in the ISL:

5. Competition Level

Currently, several ISL teams feature in the Hero Second Division League organized by the AIFF. However, their participation in the tournament is purely with the intent of more game time. There is no system of promotion and relegation for them. In an independent reserves league, this will change for better.

Teams will have a chance to play a more competitive tournament with clubs of equal stature. Each team will have players constantly looking to impress their coaching staff with the aim of earning first-team call-up. Thus, spirits and stakes will be high for each game, leading to higher level of competitiveness.

4. Game Time

Adequate game time is a basic requirement in the development of any player. Since ISL is short-term league, many young players are restricted to the bench and do not receive ample time on the pitch.

Whereas, playing in a separate league, these players who are often part of the clubs’ reserves squads, can get plenty of time to fine-tune their skills. Ayush Adhikari, Boris Singh Thangjam, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, Rohit Danu and many such young stars deserve that opportunity. A reserves league will be a huge platform for them.

3. Longer Calendar

In an independent reserves league, the ISL will have the freedom to increase the number of matches and in turn extend the duration of the tournament. This will be very beneficial for all the developing players as they will constantly be in the run-in.

The current calendar for such players is very fragmented. Their season ends in a matter of weeks due to the short duration of state leagues and the Hero Second Division League. On the other hand, a reserves league that runs parallelly with the ISL can give a more stable competition-time for the players and boost their development.

2. Pipeline for ISL clubs

Most clubs in the ISL have set a philosophy. For years, their senior teams have been displaying the same style of play, with minor enhancements every season. But what if these clubs had the chance to instill that philosophy in the players right from a young age. In a reserves league, these clubs will have a chance to determine how a particular player can fit into their system and assess his strengths and weaknesses.

Moreover, they can also scout players from other teams closely through the same tournament. Thus, the league could help players establish a better transition to the first team. And once a player is promoted to the senior side, he will already be a seasoned player in the club’s respective philosophy. In a reserves league, there is a much better probability of India producing another Sunil Chhetri, Anirudh Thapa or Lalengmawia for that matter.

1. Continuous All-round Development

Indian clubs are now becoming regular participants in the Asian club competitions. FC Goa’s haul in the AFC Champions League proved the talent Indian youngsters possess. Despite a lack of experience, players like Sanson Pereira were massive for the Gaurs during the entire campaign.

If players like him are allowed more competitive game time in a regular season, one can only imagine how crucial it will be for the club and the nation as a whole. The reserves league will not only be beneficial for the players and the clubs, but for the national team as well. Besides game time, longer calendar and higher competition, a reserves league will facilitate the all-round development of players. This is something coaches and pundits who have been part of the competition have been constantly focusing on.

A reserves league will bring dozens of young talents into the picture. These players are assured to give foreign counterparts a run for their money. More importantly, this league will also constantly build potential candidates for the national team. India’s search for a proper goalscorer continues and who knows, a reserves league would produce just that.

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