It seemed like just another typical evening until I stumbled upon the television Advertisement of Indian Super League. The Advertisement came packed with all the required marketing tricks and ended with a tagline of ‘Who doesn’t play Football’.
The placement of the tagline somehow felt ironic. India is struggling as a football team despite being a nation where ‘everyone’ plays football. Then it struck me, the problem is not just with the tagline, it is with the entire fan community that is going to jump behind Indian Super League.
A major portion of the fans who are excited about ISL now could be seen as hibernators. The post and pre time frames of ISL is something that these fans do not care about. They do not care about India losing their World Cup Qualifier against Guam or they don’t care about the sorry state of the I-League. All they want to enjoy is the mainstream appeal and hype surrounding ISL that lasts few weeks. The glitz, glamour and money that turns these fans does not serve as something which will help the sport.
Instead, it serves as an escape for the working class who comes homes after a tiring day to see an entertaining program.
We ask why India has not yet qualified for the FIFA World Cup. This is the answer: the main problem is us, the fans. The fans who hibernates. The fans who does not care what happens to Indian football unless Bollywood is related to it.
Not everyone is plastic. There are fans in India who love the game. There are some die hard supporters of I-League in every corner of the nation but then again, I-League never gets the coverage of ISL. It doesn’t get the infrastructure or money that ISL gets. Because ISL is a business and I-League is football.
Now to get the facts right, ISL is good for Indian football, period. Indian footballers get some great international exposure and also a chance to share the limelight with big names in the game, but despite the positives, ISL is just paper on the crack. Few weeks of decent quality football is not enough. It should be a year long process and that is where plastic fans gets filtered out from the actual fans who want to see football in Indian progress.
It is not easy to come up with such a format as well. The European Nations have implemented it successfully and coming up with something similar in India is going to take time, a lot of it.
For the time being, let us enjoy ISL, but let us not go into hibernation once it gets over. Because the answer to Indian Football’s problem is us, the fans.