The Indian Super League (ISL), or the Hero Indian Super League as many know, is the first league of its kind in India.
The first season of the league included seven teams from cities, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Guwahati, Pune, and one from Goa.
The Indian Super League (ISL) was a welcome relief for football fans who were craving for a sport other than Cricket, and it certainly did not disappoint.
The event, supported by Bollywood celebrities, business tycoons and football fans, had a full two-month run. Sparking off with sky-high expectations on October 12th and concluding with a dramatic finish on December 20th, the league was a testimony to India’s love for football.
From drawing celebrities to stadiums to making the football crazy fans shout their throats out, ISL made quite an impact in its first outing.
The very first game between Atletico de Kolkata and Mumbai City FC at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata had, a record, 65,000 fans thronging the stadium, larger than some of the English Premier League turnouts.
When the league concluded after a successful run, it had become the fourth biggest football league in the world, only behind Bundesliga, English Premier League and La Liga. Such was the success of the ISL.
The Indian Super League (ISL) signalled the re-birth of football in India. It provided much needed spark for the World’s most popular sport, to come alive, in a cricket crazy country.
Following are some of the memorable moments we witnessed in the first edition of ISL
Chennaiyin FC’s marquee player, Elano Blumer (Brazil) proved that he is the master of dead ball situations by scoring with grace from as far as 20 yards from the goal.
The Brazilian was the top scorer of the league with 8 goals. He was awarded the golden boot for his performance.
Atletico de Kolkata’s Ethiopian forward, Fikru and his celebrations after goals were a delight to watch. The striker’s somersault and his trademark dance moves pepped ISL up.
Atletico de Kolkata eventually became the first champions, with Fikru finishing the league with 5 goals to his name and earning a celebrity status for his energy and skill.
Mendy’s Bicycle Kick
Chennaiyin FC’s defender, Bernard Mendy scored a blinder - throwing his legs up in the air and connecting with the ball.
The stunning goal turned out to be the winner for Chennaiyin FC as it helped them beat Kerala Blasters 2-1 in the league stage.
Kerala’s vociferous fans
God’s own country, Kerala showed how much football meant to it when fans jam-packed the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi for every single match.
Kerala Blasters won the Happy fans award, a recognition to the thousands who flocked to the stadium game after game.
Sachin vs Ganguly
The Final of the inaugural edition of ISL was not just between the two best teams but was also between two behemoths of Indian cricket.
Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, co-owners of Kerala Blasters and Atletico de Kolkata respectively, were on opposite sides as their teams clashed for the final glory.
The game could have gone either way as both the teams matched each other evenly. Kerala Blasters created more opportunities and attacked more often. Atletico de Kolkata, under the eyes of delegates from Atletico Madrid, kept a cool head and held their nerves.
When it looked as if the game would head into extra time, an out of the blue header from young Indian, Mohammed Rafique, in stoppage time broke Kerala’s dreams.
A team which fought valiantly for most part of the game ultimately failed to win the match. Though it failed in leaping the final hurdle, Kerala won the hearts of millions of viewers for the fighting spirit it exuded all through the game. It was a fitting final and definitely provided value for money.
At the end of it all, there were new home-grown heroes and heroes from abroad. ISL connected players and teams with fans. Iain Hume, Elano Blumer, Luis Garcia, Nicolas Anelka and Alessandro del Piero became household names and Indian Club-Football became a topic of debate among pundits and enthusiasts alike.
With new benchmarks set in the first season, it will be interesting to see how the league matures and grows, in the years to come.
We hope that the league will cater year after year to the increasing love for Football in India. Till then, we will linger in the success and glory of the first season with the theme song ‘Come On India….Let’s Footbaaaaaaallllllaaaaallllllaaaallllllll…..Let’s Footbal’ reverberating in our minds.
Image Courtesy: www.indiansuperleague.com