It's time to recognize the unsung heroes in the ISL

Elano Blumer of Chennaiyin FC

Football is called 'the beautiful game’, and not without reason. There's something truly mesmerizing about watching a team orchestrate all those nifty little passes, feints and sprints that culminate in the shot on goal. And while goalscoring is the ultimate objective of any contest, the moves that lead up to it have a beauty of their own; it takes skill and team work of the highest order to perfect every single pass.

The penultimate shot before a goal – the 'assist' – holds more importance than all the other passes.

You need to be at the right place at the right time to effect a successful assist. Not only that, you also need to have pinpoint accuracy and impeccable ball control to ensure that you circumvent the sea of defenders and send the ball right at the feet of the striker.

The sheer difficulty in making an assist is highlighted by the names that are considered among the greatest assist-makers in history. The likes of Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, Ryan Giggs and Johan Cruyff are all certifiable greats, and racked up the stat sheet not only when it came to scoring goals but also in making winning passes.

Even in today's game, some of the best players in the world – Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Mesut Ozil, David Silva, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric – are known to be masters of the assist.

But there's a flip side to all of this. We know and applaud these prolific assist-makers mainly because they are all-round great players. In other words, they are known as much for their goalscoring prowess as for their ability to slot in a successful assist.

But what of the players who don't score that often? The James Milners, Ashley Youngs, Thiago Alacanctras, Mario Gotzes and Karim Benzemas, who put in the hard yards day in day out, but aren't put on the same pedestal as the Messis and the Bales?

That aberration holds true closer to home as well. Last year in the ISL final, as Atletico de Kolkata scored the winning goal against the Kerala Blasters, the name of Mohammed Rafique was all over TV channels and newspapers – and rightly so. He was the man who hammered the final nail in the coffin, and he deserved to be celebrated for it.

But here we tend to forget the architect of the goal, the man who provided the all-important assist, the man who in a split second made the decision to pass the ball, the man who went that extra mile to be the playmaker… Very few people remember the name of Jakub Podany, who struck the final pass that led to the ISL-winning goal.

DHL and the Winning Pass

The strikers always get their fair share of credit, but the assist-providers – who are just as important as the strikers when it comes to their contribution in wins – are often left behind. This is exactly what DHL, the Official Logistics and Timing Partner for the ISL, aims to recognize – by introducing the DHL Winning Pass award in this season of the ISL.

DHL has been associated with a host of team sports all across the globe, and sporting events that are synonymous with its values of Speed, Passion, Right First time and “Can Do” spirit. A few of DHL’s prominent and long standing international footballing associations are with clubs like FC Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Apart from football, DHL has also been associated with Formula 1, Moto GP, and to name the most recent, the Rugby World Cup 2015.

The coherence in the values resonated by the game of football and DHL has resulted in DHL taking the step to recognize the top “assist-makers”, or as we like to call them, the “Unsung Heroes”, in the ongoing season of ISL.

This recognition would be for the best assist, the winning pass and the player that makes goals happen – just like DHL makes winning passes by moving million shipments across the globe and helping businesses meet their goals everyday.

This accolade will recognize one player from each team who records the most assists for his side during the course of the ISL. The players who make the most incisive, cutting-edge passes, creating chances for their team that lead to goals, will walk away with this prestigious cash prize.

DHL, through this partnership with the ISL, is determined to bring recognition to the unsung heroes of Indian football.

How the award works

The DHL Winning Pass award will recognize eight players in total, one from each franchise. This would remain the case irrespective of whether a player from one franchise has less assists than the second best player from any of the other franchises.

For example, there could be a situation where Player A from Chennaiyin FC records the highest number of assists for his franchise, say five, and Player B from Chennaiyin FC has four assists to his name. Now if Player X from NorthEast United FC has three assists, which is the highest for the Highlanders, then Player X will still win the DHL Winning Pass Award ahead of Player B.

As per the current standings, the following players are in the running for the award from the various franchises:

Team Player Assists
Chennaiyin FC Elano 4
NorthEast United FC Sanju Pradhan 3
FC Goa Jofre Mateu 3
Atletico de Kolkata Iain Hume 3
FC Pune City Israil Gurung / Eugeneson Lyngdoh 2
Kerala Blasters FC CK Vineeth 2
Mumbai City FC Sonny Norde 2
Delhi Dynamos FC Florent Malouda 2

While most teams have just one player in the hunt for the DHL Winning Pass award, it’s neck-to-neck for Pune City FC, where both Israil Gurung and Eugeneson Lyngdoh stand at two assists each.

A battle within a battle, the DHL Winning Pass award has all the makings of an interesting and compelling initiative. It will also keep the statisticians on their toes, as they try to get the most accurate of readings for a fair assessment of the prize.

Follow the link below to stay updated with all the latest ups and downs in the award:

Here is a video showing the top assist-makers in Week 7 of the ISL:

Edited by Staff Editor