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Will ISL inspire youth to take up football as career?

July 23, 2017 21:08 IST
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Nita Ambani

IMAGE: Nita Ambani said that ISL had ‘rekindled’ love for the beautiful game in India

The ISL 2017 witnessed a spike of over 103 per cent in domestic players' salary as compared to the inaugural year, as the 10 clubs together spent ₹ 48.85 crore on Sunday to secure signatures of 156 players in the player draft in Mumbai.

The Indian Super League 2014 player draft, the first ever draft held in India, saw ₹ 24 crore being spent by eight clubs.

Anas Edathodika and Eugeneson Lyngdoh, each pegged at ₹ 1.10 crore were the flavour of the day, predictably being picked immediately at the opening of the draft. New entrant Jamshedpur FC didn't waste a minute to announce Anas as their first ever player on their roster while ATK secured Eugeneson at the first given opportunity.

The fourth season of Hero Indian Super League, which will kick off on November 17, will feature 25 of the 29 Indian national team players including stars like Sunil Chhettri, Jeje, Eugeneson, Jackichand, Sandesh, Pritam, Subrata Paul and Jayesh donning colours of their respective teams over an extended five-month league.

Coming into the Indian player draft, 10 clubs together had spent ₹ 11.51 crore in retaining a total of 22 players ahead of the July 7 deadline.

The clubs looked at completing the Indian player quota of minimum 15 and maximum 18 players, including two U-21 development players.

By the end of day, 134 best and most promising players got drafted across clubs with a combined salary of ₹ 37.33 crore.

On the back of strengthening club participation from eight to ten teams in the Indian Super League (ISL), its soaring viewership and the league's commitment to grassroots football paying off, Nita Ambani, chairperson, Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) on Sunday said, that India is undergoing a football renaissance and that the newer, longer league would be more exciting and player-friendly.

"It is going to be an exciting new journey, a longer season, kicking off this November. Both in terms of number of matches moving up from 61 to 95 and the duration from two and a half months to five months. The longer season will ensure sufficient rest for players between the matches and will help in the quality of play getting better. I am also happy that we are seeing greater interest from corporates to be associated with ISL," Ambani said during the opening address at the ISL Indian Player Draft.

She also announced that Hero Moto Corp has extended their association with Indian football as the lead sponsor for the next three years, at $ 25 million.

Ambani also welcomed the two new teams Jamshedpur FC and Bengaluru FC into the league.

"A very special welcome to the two new clubs - Jamshedpur FC promoted by Tata Steel and Bengaluru FC promoted by JSW. The Tatas have had a rich legacy of promoting football in India. The Jindals have a strong fan base in Bengaluru and have been a great supporter of Indian football. We are delighted to have both these groups join Hero ISL and I am sure this partnership and support will further strengthen our league," she said.

Listing out the achievements of the ISL over the last three seasons, Ambani said that the league had "rekindled" love for the beautiful game in India, which now ranks 96th in the world from 173 in 2015.

"Let us cherish and celebrate this renaissance of Indian football. I want to congratulate all of you for your passion and commitment - not just to the ISL, but to our larger vision of creating a holistic football ecosystem in the country," she said.

Underlining the importance of grassroots development, she congratulated all the clubs for the commitment to the philosophy.

"Right from the inception, grassroots has been at the heart of Hero ISL; and I am glad that all ISL clubs share this passion. The ISL grassroots and Reliance Foundation Youth Sports have already reached out to over 3.3 million youngsters across the country. These programmes have provided all the clubs with a unique platform to scout young talent," she said.

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