In a much talked about season, there were a few things that amazed a lot of fans.
The Indian football league season has finally come to an end with Chennaiyin FC and Minerva Punjab lifting their respective titles. This year’s ISL season was longer than ever and it had everything, great talent, goals galore, travelling fans and what not. The regular season ended on a high and there were a few highlights that shaped the season on the whole.
Of all the scuffle in the last four months, ISL pulled off a blockbuster of a season leading to five talking points as below.
Youngsters staking claims as first-team regulars
India has definitely emerged as a growing footballing country and a platform like the ISL gives the youngsters the opportunity to showcase their talent to the masses. Like every year, young Indian players have come up and proved themselves and also that if given a chance they can rub shoulders with their foreign counterparts. Chennaiyin’s young left-back Jerry Lalrinzuala is a prime example. The 20-year-old of full-back won the ISL Emerging Player of the Season last year and he continued on his merry way this campaign as well, proving to be a vital cog for John Gregory and his team.
The likes of Subhashish Bose and Rahul Bheke also augmented the Bengaluru FC defence very well throughout the season and Subhasish’s efforts were rewarded as he got a call-up for the national team for the last AFC Asian Cup Qualifier. amongst others, there are, Lalruatthara, Sarthak Golui, Ashique Kuruniyan, Lallinzuala Chhangte, Anirudh Thapa, and so on. Indeed, this year’s ISL was really a platform for teams to show the amount of talent they have.
The youngsters also did complete justice in whatever chances they got and this will definitely be a big stepping stone in their career. The managers also showed trust in the Indian youngsters and backed them whenever they were not up to the mark. So it was definitely a great learning curve for the youngsters.
More opportunities to Indians
This year’s ISL saw a lot of changes in the gameS and one highlight was the increase in the number of Indians in the starting XI from five to six, which meant that the involvement of Indians also increased which was fruitful for the players and their development. More opportunities meant more game-time and this was an area where the players had to fit in as per their manager’s requirement. Indian players had a great amount of impact on the game this year as they had crucial roles in their team’s success or defeat.
Dhanpal Ganesh’s tremendous performances earned him a call-up for the national camp
With opportunity came a responsibility to perform consistently and the players tried their best to impress their managers on the field. Players like Jerry Lalrinzuala, Dhanpal Ganesh, Jeje Lalpekhlua played a very crucial part in their club’s road to ISL glory this season. Similarly, a set of Indian players for all the clubs have grabbed the opportunities given to them and have performed to their maximum capabilities leading to the growth of football in India.
More contributing foreigners
The ISL has been often criticised for this aspect, as the clubs tended to go for players and managers with astounding CVs, irrespective of their age and physical condition. They used to pay tons of money for players who were once footballing greats in Europe, but mere statues when it came to the ISL. But, things have changed and now teams have become more sensible.
Players like Edu Garcia, Miku Fedor, Dimas Delgado, Ferran Corominas, Manuel Lanzarote, Marcelinho and so on are a few of the foreigners who improved the ISL this season with their presence. Corominas scored goals for fun as the FC Goa forward ended the campaign as the league’s top scorer, while Miku was also influential for Bengaluru FC finishing second in the charts. Delgado, Raphael Augusto, Ahmed Jahouh were the maestros who controlled the midfield for their respective clubs and buoy they were great at their job.
This year we saw some top class foreigners who may not have a great CV but certainly showed us a high brand of football. THe ISL clubs have finally got the trick of recruiting foreigners and the likes of Coro, Miku, Manuel Lanzarote, Dimas have set the platform for many greats to follow in the coming years.
Quality of refereeing
Referees failed to notice that Augusto was not wearing shin pads
One of the blemishes in this year’s ISL was definitely the inconsistent refereeing. The level of the refereeing was shambolic, to say the least as it became a constant talking point in this year’s ISL. Some of the wrong decisions given by the referees changed the course of the matches completely.
Time an again the referees’ decisions were under the scanner and some of the mistakes were basic errors. Its high time for the ISL and Indian football as a whole to look into the matter and improve the refereeing standards and automatically the football will also improve in the country.
One area where the ISL again suffered a moderate setback, was IN lowering numbers of attendance in stadiums. Many teams like Kerala Blasters, Jamshedpur FC and Bengaluru FC boasted immense support and fans turned up in good numbers to back their team. But, the problem lay with clubs like NorthEast United, Delhi Dynamos and Mumbai City FC, as these three teams had the lowest average attendance throughout the league.
The average attendance has broken all the wrong kind of records
NorthEast United even experienced the lowest attendance of only 1121 spectators in a match this season. The drastic fall in attendance revolves around some factors, starting with the performance of the team. Both NorthEast United and Delhi Dynamos had a season to forget, although Delhi fought back in the latter stages of the campaign it was not enough for the Lions to encourage their supporters to fill up the stands. Secondly, crowds were not attracted because of lack of star players. The teams this year did not have many renowned European stars and hence the hype was not created like in previous editions.