Second edition of Hero Indian Super League gets into motion on October 03, 2015. The 2½ month ISL window is too short, compared to football leagues elsewhere in the world but it is just the second year. Going by the terrific response elicited by ISL last year, it is only a matter of time before the football culture gets ingrained in the Indian psyche. Many experts believe that as years go by; ISL could attract the best global talent and become as popular football league as others world-wide. The kick-off for the 2015 season is merely a week away and different clubs are having their own stories in the run up to the tournament. Let us briefly examine some of the highlights of the 8 ISL teams.
The Southern Indian Club had their pre-season training in Italy. Players and officials were thrilled to find fans waiting for them on their arrival at Chennai International Airport in the wee hours of September 22, 2015. The Club scored mot goals in 2014 but they lost to Kerala Blasters in semi-finals. During their practice sessions in Italy, Chennaiyin FC played four games with two wins and two losses. Chennaiyin’s marquee player Elano was surprised by his team’s welcome by fans and added that his team will pay for this gratitude by performing well in 2015. This year, Chennaiyin will have the mercurial Fikru Teferra, who left ATK. Their ISL-2 campaign starts on October 03, with a tie against ATK at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai.
Atletico de Kolkata
ATK had their pre-season training camp in Spain. But on return to Kolkata, they have run into a dilemma over further practice since the home venue at Salt Lake is unavailable for reasons beyond their control. ATK CEO Subrata Talukdar said practice venue was a major worry for the club, which takes on Chennaiyin FC for 2015 ISL’s first match at Chennai on October 3. Talukdar added that the re-laid natural grass at Salt Lake stadium has been damaged and it is not available for practice. With time running out, ATK may use either Mohun Bagan ground in Maidan or Vidyasagar Kriranga in Barasat. Meanwhile, ATK announced about their commercial tie-up with SRMB Srijan Ltd, who would sponsor the jerseys. With this, ATK now have 12 associate sponsors compared to 7 last season.
FC Pune City
Didier Zokora of Ivory Coast is a new player joining Pune this year. With over 100 international appearances, Zokora eagerly looks forward to playing in the ISL. The 34-year-old Zokora has represented Ivory Coast on 123 occasions besides playing for Tottenham Hotspur in English Premier League and Sevilla in La Liga. Pune City FC were placed sixth last season but Zokora is upbeat about Pune’s chances in 2015. For pre-season training and conditioning, FC Pune went to Turkey with their coach David Platt. They trained at the Gloria Sports Arena Antalya, which has the best sports training facilities in the world. In its season opener, Pune plays against Mumbai FC at Balewadi Stadium in Pune on October 5.
Delhi Dynamos launched their official kit for 2015 season in front of the world famous monument Taj Mahal at Agra. In an enthusiastically attended ceremony, players, coaches and the management introduced themselves to their fans in the presence of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and the Mayor of Agra. Dynamos President also announced that his club would tie up with UP Tourism department and set up a football academy in UP.
Keral Blasters FC
Chris Dagnall is the new recruit for last year’s runner up Kerala Blasters. It will be the first overseas assignment for Dagnall in his 12-year long professional football career. The 29-year-old English striker said that KBFC’s overall progress in 2014 ISL was remarkable despite their loss to ATK in the final. The Englishman also awaits the renewal of his relationship with Head Coach Peter Taylor, under whom he once shared the dressing room at Bradford City. Meanwhile, KBFC unveiled their jersey for ISL-2 in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram in the presence of state chief minister Oommen Chandy and Cricket legend and franchise owner Sachin Tendulkar. Seven home-matches of KBFC will be played at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium with the season opener against North-East United FC on October 6.
FC Goa had practice stints at Dubai and in their last match before returning home, they defeated Al Shabab 2-1. In an earlier match, Goa were held to a 2-2 draw by Al Khaleej. Goa’s Brazilian coach Zico is confident of the team’s performance in the upcoming season. The team will play their first match at home on October 4 against Delhi Dynamos.
North-East United FC
North-East United FC had a three-week practice tour to South Africa in September and had an extremely satisfactory performance against teams from South African Premier Soccer League Club AmaZulu FC and SAFA-Under 23. They defeated AmaZulu FC 2-1 in a game, where they could have ended with a higher victory margin going by the number of chances they created. NEUFC have since returned home and they will play their opening ISL game against Kerala Blasters at Kochi on October 6.
Place seventh in the 2014 season, Mumbai FC are eying a better performance in 2015. They went to Dubai for pre-season training and conditioning, playing four friendly games on August 31, September 4, 6 & 9 before returning home. Mumbai City FC marquee-player-cum-manager Nicolas Anelka is convinced about his team’s potential to perform better in 2015. The Club also launched the jersey for 2015 season and the supplier is none other than the famed German Sportswear giant Puma, who also manufactures the kit for English Premier League giant Arsenal and German Club Borussia Dortmund, among others.