The excitement is evident as soon as one enters the official website of The Hero Indian Super League, the welcome statement reads, “Yeh Football Diwali Wali”.
Indian Football fans all over the country can kick start the celebrations early! Football will now be their next door neighbour for the next two months. The eight franchises had been training diligently as the first of its kind mega football tournament unfolds in our country. It is well known that India hosts avid football fanatics who are seen cheering for their favorite teams in the football leagues across Europe. Now, they have a chance to witness some of our budding young talents take center stage and showcase their skills. There definitely is a buzz in the air and we hope that this is the first of many such initiatives to promote the beautiful game in our country.
The Football Superstars in India for ISL
We have always seen top football players getting transferred from one top football club to another top club, but in a first, India will witness a host of footballing superstars being a part of their franchises as marquee signings.
From Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero to French stalwart David Trezeguet, Arsenal legend Robert Pires and the Former England goalkeeper David James. Our very own Subrata Paul and Michael Chopra shall definitely inspire some of our young lads . The ISL also boasts of a La Masia graduate (The famous academy of Barcelona) in Luis Garcia who is also a Champions League winner with Liverpool in 2005.
Indian defenders will get an opportunity to play beside World Cup winner Italian Marco Meterazzi and former Manchester United and French great Mikael Silvestre. Fredrik Ljungberg, Nicolas Anelka and Joan Capdevila also form a part of the squadron of top European talent that will dazzle us with their skills.
Top International Coaches
Former Sunderland manager Peter Reid will manage Mumbai and David James and Marco Meterazzi will play the role of player manager for Kerala Blasters and Chennaiyin FC respectively. Goa FC win the round here with the Brazilian legend Zico who will be leading the Goans for the tournament. Look out for Ricki Herbert, the coach of North East United, who has a proud record of taking New Zealand to the World Cup.
Indian Super League works on a standard format wherein each team will play each other twice on their home ground and twice as an away tie. The top four teams of the league will then play in a two legged format semi-final and the winners at the end of the two set of fixtures will contest the final. Fans across India will support every goal and every save of the ISL and hopefully be the 12th man for their favorite teams. Let us get a low down on theSE eight franchises.
Atletico De Kolkata
Manager: Antonio Lopes Habas
Marquee Signing(s): Luis Garcia
Home: Salt Lake Stadium, Capacity: 1, 20,000 (68,000 as per current capacity due to renovation of the stadium)
With the first name borrowed from La Liga champions Atletico Madrid, we hope to see top quality football from the lads representing Kolkata. The frenzied fans would certainly be expecting so. Kolkata is known for its massive fan following of the sport and with the team playing at Salt Lake Stadium we expect jubilant fans cheering every kick of the football. The ISL team is co-owned by legendary cricketer Saurav Ganguly, and with him being associated with the team there isn’t a lot of motivation needed to get the fans behind Atletico De Kolkata.
Luis Garcia who has had a spell with Atletico Madrid has been efficiently plugging gaps in the midfield. The team’s international contingent boasts of a host of Spanish talent in Jose Gonzalez Rey, Borja Fernandez and Jofre Mateu Gonzalez. The Indian contingent is hoping to fire with striker Mohammed Rafi and youngster Mohammed Rafique leading the line along with veterans Climax Lawrence and Sanju Pradhan. Calvin Lobo is Atletico’s first pick for the ISL. Son of the soil and Indian team regular Arnab Mondal and the experienced Denzil Franco have been strong in defense. The team looks strong on paper, and with Spanish duo of Habas and Martinez in the coaching setup we can expect some dazzling football for sure.
Performance So Far : It is little wonder that Athletico De Kolkata have started with 2 wins and are on top of the league standings.
Manager: Marco Materazzi (Player-Manager)
Marquee Signings(s): Elano, Mikel Silvestre
Home: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Chennai, Capacity: 40,000
Can Chennaiyin FC be the force the IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings has been in the T20 cricket? Marco Materazzi has been a solid Italian defender and has been a World Cup Winner with Italy in 2006. He has a task in his hands but would be confident about his defense , as he can bank upon Manchester United great Mikael Silvestre and Ex-Bolton defender Bernard Mendy. Being his first outing as a coach the inexperience would definitely be a concern but he would hope that he can get Chennaiyin to be a solid defensive unit and play intelligent and efficient football- a trademark of the Italian national side.
In Former Manchester City midfielder Elano, Chennai have someone they can bank on to lead the team from midfield. India’s NP Pradeep has excelled as an attacking midfielder and he is a real asset also because of his experience of over 50 caps for India. Compatriot Anthony Barbosa would be hoping he gets a chance to shine having represented India at the Under-23 Olympic qualifying campaign. Mohan Bagan’s player of season 2012-2013 Denson Devadas is known for his ability to put in industrial performances and is a strong tackler. International duo of Swedish midfielder and Manchester United academy graduate Bojan Djordjic and experienced Spanish midfielder Cristian Gonzalez would be looking to add tempo and flair to the Chennai midfield. Up front, Balwant Singh and 21 year old Jayesh Rane will look to add to the goal tally.
AB Junior and his boy have a solid team but they will need the goals!
Performance So Far : With a solid start ,the Chennai team was the only ISL team in Round 1 , that started with a win over a home team. Elano and Balwant Singh were impressive in the win and the team will look to gain momentum from their efficient starting performance.
Delhi Dynamos FC
Manager: Harm Van Veldohoven
Marquee Signing(s): Alessandro del Peiro
Home: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Delhi, Capacity: 60,000
Delhi Dynamos have a prolific Italian striker Alessandro del Peiro in their ranks, which would be a worry for most opposition defenders. He has found the net with ease during his time with Sydney FC in the Australian league and will look to continue his good form for Delhi. Harm Van Veldohoven is highly experienced in coaching with stints in Belgium and his native country Holland and will hope his players would respond to his methods. If we were to name one stand out team during pre-season it is the team from Delhi with comprehensive 3-0 and 9-0 wins over Garhwal FC and Hindustan FC respectively. They have netted a massive 19 goals in three matches, with the Denmark duo of Mads Junker and Morten Skoubo scoring goals for fun!
The Delhi team has an equally stout defense, not conceding a single goal so far, which would please their Dutch manager. Veldohoven wants his boys to play attractive football and we can expect some fire-crackers. As for the Indian contingent, Delhi boasts of a sublime midfielder in Steven Dias, who has a good record in the I-League and for India in the past. Defenders with goal scoring abilities are always a threat and Anwar Ali would hope it applies here too. His ability to attack during dead-ball situations will be handy for the Dynamos. Shylo Malswamtlunga or “Mama” as he is fondly known has looked in top form, making darting runs from the flanks and would be an integral part of Veldohoven’s plans.
The young brigade comprises of Manandeep Singh, the young player of the year for 2012-2013 and Nehru Cup winner in the same year would hope to add some spice in a team of immense promise. Can they continue their run, and can Del Peiro inspire them to gun for glory, we shall soon find out!
Performance So Far: Delhi has shown a solid defence but missed out on scoring in its opening match against Goa and had to settle for a draw
Marquee Signing(s): Robert Pires
Home: Fatorda Stadium, Capacity: 24,000
The two big names in Zico and Robert Pires are enough to exemplify the expectations that the fans of FC Goa would have from their team.
Robert Pires, the Arsenal legend has had a gem of a footballing career and was a fan’s favorite at the Emirates. Pires is most known for the stellar role he played for the team of Arsenal that was dubbed as the ‘The Invincibles’. A name that was given to the club to highlight their heroics of going unbeaten in all 38 league fixtures in 2003 premier league season.
Pires won 2 premier league titles and three F.A Cups during his time at the North London club. Being a World Cup winner for France in 1998, if the lads from Goa are looking for some inspiration they don’t need to look too far. One of India’s most decorated footballers, Clifford Miranda would be hoping he can team up with Pires and consolidate in centre midfield. Veteran Dempo midfielder Peter Carvalho and left back Debrata Roy will hope to add some flair to the side. 21 year old Narayan Das who most recently broke into the national team will hope to learn a trait or two from the seniors around him.
Zico’s coaching stints in Asia (in Japan and Iraq) will benefit Goa as he understands how the game works in these conditions. Predominately the side is represented by a host of Dempo’s stars and there is huge expectation they will terrorize the opposition just as they do in Dempo colours.
Performance So Far : Goa has had a slow start with the team from Chennai beating them on their home ground. The Goa team did display a lot of flair and it is only a matter of time before Robert Pires and his men break their duck
FC Pune City
Manager: Franco Colomba
Marquee Signing(s): David Trezeguet, Kostas Katsouranis
Home: Shree Shiv Chhatrapathi Sports Complex, Capacity: 22,000
The first thing that comes to our minds when we talk about Pune and Football are the Venky’s- the owners of English football club Blackburn Rovers. They haven’t been as popular in the sport as much as their meat products have been in India.
This time around, the fans from Pune will be hoping they can get some help from Salman Khan to set things right. Franco Colomba has managed 16 Italian clubs in his managerial career, the top among the clubs being Parma. He will be to use the best of his experience during his first assignment in Asia.
World Cup winner and a footballer of immense talent and skill during his prime, striker David Trezeguet would want to score some goals and get us a glimpse of his goal-scoring prowess. Joining him is Greece midfielder, Kostas Katsouranis who was a member of the famous Greek side that won the European Championship in 2004. Italian defensive duo of Bruno Cirillo and Daniele Magliochetti will hope to showcase the example of a solid Italian defense. Adding some local colour to Pune would be Churchill Brothers midfielder Lenny Rodrigues, the 27 year old being voted FPAI’s best midfielder and footballer of the year in 2012-2013. He has immense ability to pick out inch perfect passes something which Trezeguet would love to pick up from. Another player with a tremendous touch the muscular Mehrajuddin Wadoo also brings tremendous I-league experience and will certainly play a big role for the franchise. A certain 18 year old Pratik Shinde would hope to benefit from this new side and this tournament could be the breakthrough that he is looking for. Pundits believe a top half finish would be realistic target, I’m certain the boys from Pune would want to prove them wrong.
Performance So Far: Pune was gutsy in defence and were able to achieve a draw against Delhi on their home ground. if David Trezequet picks up steam than this team from Pune will be quite a handful
Kerala Blasters FC
Manager: David James( Player-Manager)
Marquee Signings: David James, Michael Chopra
Home: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Kochi, Capacity: 75,000
The Kerala fan base would have been ecstatic the moment they figured their team was co-owned by Indian legend, master blaster Sachin Tendulkar. The local players certainly don’t need to go beyond the great man to find some inspiration.
They say that the man in between the posts often has the best view of the game, I’m sure David James would certainly want to prove that is the case as he takes up a player-manager role for his franchise. He would hope he can knit his team together starting right from the heart of defense. His goalkeeping instincts have been for the World to see, and it’ll be exciting to see how he fits into this new role. He would be banking on the experience of Trevor Morgan, the assistant coach of Kerala Blasters who has been the man responsible for taking East Bengal to three back to back I-League titles from 2010-2013. His coaching abilities would be most adaptable to the prevalent conditions, something the Indian players would be looking forward to.
Michael Chopra makes a move to Indian shores, having never quite fulfilled his earlier promising start at English club Newcastle United. He has represented England at youth level but somehow fizzled out as he played most of his football in the Championship. British defender James McAllister and Irish Colin Falvey also add some European flavor to the Kochi based side. One can see Morgan’s experience already counting with the signing of Mehtab Hossien whom he mentored during his time at East Bengal. An astound tackler his best attribute is his commitment on the pitch, Mehtab is dubbed by many as the “Claude Makelele of Indian football”.
Nirmal Chettri, a player of tremendous potential at right back offers solidarity and an attacking option on the right hand side of the football pitch. Completing the pack is veteran midfielder and a winner of 70 caps for India, Renedy Singh who would look to consolidate midfield and add depth to the squad. If everyone understands their role and Chopra can rediscover some of his earlier form Sachin and his boys could well spoil the party for other clubs.
Performance So Far : Kerala were outrun by the speedier North East United Football Club in the opening match. David James did roll back the years with a great save and in home conditions, this Kerala team will be quite a handful
Mumbai City FC
Manager: Peter Reid
Marquee Signing(s): Fredrik Ljungberg, Nicolas Anelka
Home: DY Patil Stadium, Capacity: 55,000
Co-owned by the Bollywood superstar and Barcelona’s brand ambassador for India Ranbir Kapoor, Mumbai City FC seems to be a team with a fine balance of international and domestic players.
Fredik Ljungberg needs no introduction, regarded as one of the finest talents to emerge from Sweden Ljungberg made his name during his nine year association with Arsenal and was also part of ‘The Invincibles’. He has played 216 games for the Gunners notching 72 goals and is rated as the 11th best player in Arsenal’s illustrious history.
Teaming up with him is French striker Nicolas Anelka who has played his football for some of the most illustrious clubs in club football namely PSG, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Juventus. Anelka has also had a spell in the Chinese league playing for Shanghai Shenhua along with Chelsea legend Didier Drogba. Anelka has won trophies wherever he’s traveled and has had a host of personal accolades to his name during his footballing career including the Premier League Golden Boot for Chelsea in 2008-2009 and The PFA’s Young Player of the Year while at Arsenal in 1997-1998.
Coach, Peter Reid comes with a rich experience of guiding Manchester City to successive 5th positions in the league table much before their recent period of success and has also managed Sunderland to back to back top half finishes in 2000 and 2001. Complimenting this star-studded attacking set up are Deepak Mondal and Raju Gaikwad. Both have had tremendous success in defense and would look to keep it tight and allow the team to operate in the opposition half.
Subrata Pal is one of the best goalkeepers in Asia, and is donning the No.1 jersey for quite some time. Commercially Mumbai is definitely looking at success but if Anelka and co can bag some early goals Mumbai does a great chance to battle for glory.
Performance So Far : Mumbai were constrained by the absence of Nicolas Anelka and Fredrik Ljungberg in their opening defeat to Kolkata. With a full and fit staff the Mumbai team will be looking to make a quick return to the top of the ISL
North East United FC
Manager: Ricki Herbert
Marquee Signing(s): Joan Capdevilla
Home: Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Capacity: 35,000
The team from Guwahati is a formidable unit, managed by Ricki Herbert the man who most famously kept New Zealand unbeaten through the 2010 World Cup. He’s had tremendous experience in the Australian League and is best known to add consistency to upcoming football clubs. North East United FC would be hoping to use most of his expertise and play to their strengths.
World Cup 2010 winner Spanish left back Joan Capdevilla isn’t a player known for his goal-scoring ability but his experience of having played 15 seasons of top-flight football in the La-Liga adds up to 432 appearances and 35 goals. Now that is some experience !. During his spell with Deportivo La Coruna from 2000-2007 Capdevilla established himself as one of the best left-backs in the World. He’s been capped 60 times for the Spanish national side and he’s solid defensive positioning and overall support play was critical to Spain’s attacking play during the time.
North East United boasts an array of young Indian talent from North East who have a natural flair for the sport and we can hope that the emerging talent from this region get an avenue to prove their growing confidence. Ricki Herbert has his work cut out, but with so many youngster the franchise may not be judged on the same parameters as the others.
Performance So Far: North East have seen both victory and defeat in the tournament so far and will look to getting back to winning away;s after their loss to Kolkata
The action from ISL so far has truly been impressive. Follow all the action of ISL on Sports Rediscovered.