"Indian football development goes beyond ISL" says Florent Malouda
Delhi Dynamos’ marquee player and former Chelsea man Florent Malouda in a frank assessment of the footballing situation in India felt that the Indian Super League alone cannot help the footballing talent and the infrastructure grow in the nation. With the ISL restricted to a two and a half month span, the Frenchman felt that more stress should be laid on the months in which the competition isn’t running.
Malouda has been part of the Indian Super League for two years now. After debuting for the Delhi Dynamos last season, the former Chelsea midfielder has come back for a second stint with the club, this time as their marquee player and now can sense a greater connect with the country and its football culture.
After a promising start to the season, the Dynamos were handed their first defeat by a ten-men Atletico de Kolkata on Saturday. The Frenchman, speaking to the press following the disappointment felt that there were obvious improvements in Indian football. However, the Indian Super League is not the end all in this country.
“It’s (Indian football) is growing year after year. However, the difficulty is with a short season and a number of changes. Thus, it is difficult to assess the progress. However, judging by the young players we have, I can definitely say that they are improving and they have some real potential.
“However, the season ends in December and starts again in October next year. During the season, you can see and feel the intensity of the games. The players have been able to show a lot of intensity and talent in this short period of time.
“But, it’s only after December (after the ISL finishes) that you can really improve. Even in today’s game, the penalty decision was an emotional moment which turned the game around. And this is again another place where we can improve.
“I can see the potential and talent. But that potential and talent has to be converted into performance. During the ISL, you can see the progress, but the period after the tournament which will be vital for improving the level of the game here.”
The AIFF is trying to lay down a plan to promote ISL as India’s premier tournament, avoiding all the hiccups it had encountered whilst introducing a preliminary “road map” to merge ISL with the existent I-League. However, for that to happen and for FIFA to recognize as the official league, the time period of the tournament will have to be increased, which might not be good news for a number of clubs who have brought in players as shorter time periods.
“I think the ISL should be made longer if you can maintain the quality. It makes no sense if you have a longer tournament only for the quality to drop. You have to see that the tournament is a good one and there is competition,” opined the 36-year-old.
Touching on the subject of I-League teams getting the chance to play in AFC competitions, the Frenchman added, “Something here is strange. Bengaluru are still playing while they are not in the ISL. So they have to see that if you are competitive in the league (ISL) you get the chance to play in the continental tournaments. This is how it works in the rest of the world.”
After leading the Delhi Dynamos to a spot in the top four last season, Malouda has had a lean spell so far with no goals to his name (five games into the season). However, he felt that there were many positives from the game which they lost in spite of enjoying a numerical advantage for the last twenty odd minutes.
Regarding his own form, the Frenchman seemed he was happy with the “responsibilities” that Gianluca Zambrotta has placed on him. “I am disappointed with myself today. But there is still a long way to go and I will get more opportunities. It’s difficult to speak much after losing a game, however, the way we played, makes me think that I can do better.”
Delhi will now need to shake off this disappointment as they get ready to take on Pune on the 27th of this month on their home turf at Delhi.