Brothers of famous footballers who can light up the Indian Super League
The Indian Super League started with much pomp and fervour with high-profile businessmen, wealthy corporations, a galaxy of internationally recognized names and Bollywood actors all contributing to an eye-catching spectacle.
The razzmatazz drew in huge crowds and the league recorded an average footfall of 24,357, trailing only the Bundesliga, Premier League, and LaLiga.
In a short span of five years, the novelty has slowly worn out and there has been a significant drop in average attendance figures. In the fourth season, average attendance figures dropped to 15,047. Season 5 has witnessed even lower numbers.
One of the reasons, of course, is the league’s inability to draw in the marquee players. Speaking to sports360, Delhi Dynamos FC’s media manager, Shikharr Chandra, acknowledges the absence of marquee players has affected the popularity of the league:
“The club has seen the likes of Del Piero and Roberto Carlos so there’s always an expectation from the fans that we might bring a new big face every year,” he admitted. “It is difficult because we keep getting this query on our social media posts, with fans asking to bring in marquee names.
“From both a media and marketing perspective it becomes really easy if you have a marquee name to sell to sponsors while the general audience are also able to relate to his pictures on the hoardings.”
The league since its inception has consistently reduced its budget reserved for foreign players. That has definitely impacted the quality of the league.
According to a recent report, a number of World Cup players from Uruguay, Iran, Costa Rica, Panama, and Iceland were offered to Indian Super League clubs in season 5. The most notable being Iranian captain Masoud Shojaei. However, none of the clubs took the bait.
The obvious shift in strategy has left fans disillusioned. Even the superstar owners seem to have fallen out of love with the ISL. During the past four seasons, the celebrity owners were very visibly present in the stands, cheering their team on with gusto and passion.
Suddenly their absence is palpable. The ISL organizers need to take cognizance of this worrying trend. An increase in salary cap reserved for foreign players could be a plausible solution. It will help clubs bring in better quality signings and reverse worrying trend of half-empty stadiums.
Ultimately, an overseas player should be better than what is available domestically and able to titillate the fans.
Let’s look at four overseas players who are not as famous as their famous footballing brothers but can surely sprinkle a little of that stardust on the Indian Super League:
#1 Federico Higuain
It not easy being the brother of Gonzalo Higuain but Federico has made a name for himself in the MLS with Columbus Crew. Federico moved to Europe in 2007 but struggled for form in his disappointing 14-match stint with Besiktas in Turkey.
Ever since his move to Columbus Crew in 2012, the diminutive playmaker has averaged close to a goal every three games. Despite the constant comparisons with his younger brother, he does not feel bitter. In 2013, Federico cleared up the confusion:
“Honestly, it doesn’t bother me that people want to talk about Gonzalo all the time. I don’t feel any bitterness. I have the pleasure of doing a job that I love and bearing a name that symbolizes honesty and hard work."
At 34, the elder Higuain is in the autumn of his playing days, but whether or not he would want to move to another club at this point is unclear.