An extended domestic season will help on many fronts.

Indian football is set to have a nine-month-long domestic season. The 2022-23 season will begin in August 2022 with the Durand Cup. The Indian Super League and the I-League will begin in October 2022 and the season ends with Super Cup in May 2023. This will be beneficial for the Indian footballers and all the stakeholders of the game. The re-introduction of cup competitions in the season is a welcome move.

Igor Stimac, the national men’s team head coach is a staunch advocate of a longer season. “The season needs to be longer and players need more matches. A footballer cannot have a break that’s longer than 6-8 weeks,” the Croatian clarifies. The tactician is absolutely right because, in order to grow and develop domestic players, the Indian football calendar needed to be bigger than before.

Therefore, the 2022-23 season will be vital to the development of Indian football. It will benefit the players, the coaches, the clubs and all other stakeholders. Shifting to this schedule might just be the biggest step in the right direction. Shedding more light on the long calendar, here is how it makes sense for Indian football:

Longer period for coaches to develop players

Manolo Marquez
Manolo Marquez has been one of the ISL coaches who has called for a longer season (Courtesy: ISL Media)

The biggest advantage of a long calendar is that it provides more time for coaches. Developing players, and instilling a style of gameplay in them is a slow process. It takes time and careful progression. It starts by identifying talent, then incorporating the talent into the team and working on polishing their finer details.

A nine-month-long season gives the coaches enough time to complete the process. Earlier, this was not available to coaches who had to rely on the options at their disposal. With the season being longer, a head coach can develop the youngsters and mould them in their image.

More time on the training pitch

Developing a clear style of play takes an incredible amount of patience. It is not a process that can be completed in six months. It is a very short duration for an incoming coach at a club that has only one season to impress the hierarchy and deliver results. Hyderabad FC gave Manolo Marquez an extension to work on the team and eventually, the outfit won the Indian Super League. There could be more such examples going forward of coaches developing young Indian players due to a longer season.

This is proof that more time on the training pitch helps the club develop a preferred playing style. Changing and chopping the training methods too frequently leaves a mess. With more time on the training pitch, the technical staff can implement more tactics and work on patterns for a longer duration.

Improved rest and recovery

Federico Gallego
Federico Gallego’s injury hampered NorthEast United’s campaign last season (Courtesy: ISL Media)

One of the major issues in the past for the Indian Super League or the I-League has been injuries. Since the season was only six months long, there were too many games condensed in a short amount of time. It did not give the players enough time to train, rest and recover between the matches. Heading from one game to the next without any recovery session in between led to multiple injuries.

This was a major cause of frustration for the head coaches of various clubs. With a longer season and more time between matches, this shall not be an issue. The decision-makers will be able to rest key players and give them time to recuperate from knocks. It is also beneficial for the players who will be able to recover from small niggles instead of playing with them through painkillers.

Beneficial for teams playing in Asian competitions

Jamshedpur FC
Last season’s champions Jamshedpur FC are contending for a continental spot (Courtesy: ISL Media)

A longer calendar in Indian football helps the teams that represent in continental competitions. When an ISL or I-League club plays in the AFC Champions League or AFC Cup, for instance, their own domestic season is over by then. On the other hand, their opponents are in the middle of their domestic season, hence their players are sharper and more match-fit.

Holding training sessions, after the domestic season is over, prior to continental tournaments is not the ideal move. With a longer calendar year, this shall be resolved. Indian clubs that are playing in Asian competitions will be more ready and deliver better performances thanks to the change in schedule. 

Enhanced quality of performances

The best outcome from a long season is going to be the improvement in the quality of football. When the players have enough time to rest, they will be able to retain intensity over a longer period. The energy levels will not fall down which is usually the case by the end of the season. The better physical and mental well-being of the players will automatically lead to better performances on the field.

The coaches will be able to rest key players, the youngsters will enjoy more gametime and the overall competitiveness of the league will only improve thanks to the long season. In the grand scheme of things, the longer season improves the quality of football in India and hence it makes a lot of sense.

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