ISL 2017: Despite the all the frenzy, Indian football shows little progress
While most of the Indian Fans look at ISL as a major stepping stone in Indian football, it's nothing more than another one those vacuous in-house tournaments where self-gratification seems to be more important than overall improvement.
Neither is there any promotion or relegation system nor have the legendary clubs such as Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Dempo been included. The league has deserted a good section of fans from the tournament and along with that has shown lack of respect for the legacy of clubs who've been involved in football in India much before it became a money minting machine.
The message of the league towards the old clubs seemed to be, "Either fall in line or fall out". But despite all the marketing efforts put in by the league not even a single match in their short history so far has come even close to the average attendance of the Kolkata Derby.
They've failed to understand that it's the fans who build a sporting culture in a country. The marketing, branding etc. only act as catalysts but the real connection between fans and a club is forged through years of support and legacy. There is a reason why Manchester United has the highest number of fans in the world.
Also, relegation and promotion make a country's league system way more interesting. The thrill of getting promoted draws TRPs for the lower divisions, while the fear of getting relegated results in a battle at the lower end of the table that's as interesting as the title race.
What India really needs is an all-inclusive Football Division System that recognises and places different clubs currently operational in the country at different divisions. Every club playing in any of the divisions should have a shot at playing at the top level if they're able to climb the division ladders.
That's how we'll have multiple clubs in India having their own set of fans, history, stadiums and local support. Just imagine how insane it will be if an underdog club from a tier-II city wins the top division like Leicester. Imagine the extent to which it would encourage young lads to join the local football clubs and will also make investing in local clubs a lucrative business proposition.
Overnight marketing euphoria will give quick results and will please a certain set of fans. But the purists, who know the history of the clubs they follow in the Premier League, La Liga or any other top division, know that it's long-term effects in developing football culture in the country are negligible.