Adam Le Fondre from Sydney FC to Mumbai City FC, former Celtic FC star Gary Hooper, centre-back James Donachie, Costa Nhamoinesu from Sparta Praha to Kerala Blasters, Bakary Koné . These are just a few of the names of the stars of the footballing world when joined different ISL teams for the season (2020-2021). India especially the ISl has started to take over the Asian footballing map with many top stars joining it.

Here we will take a deep look into why so many players specially from the A-League want to join the ISL.

Adam Le Fondre joined ISL side Mumbai City FC from Sydney FC.

In October 2020 Robbie Fowler joined SC East Bengal as their head coach. This was a huge announcement by the club who would be playing in the ISL for the very first time. He joined East Bengal as a former Brisbane Roar coach and became a part of the huge list of players that have migrated from the different leagues in Asia to the ISL.

When the ISL started many clubs brought marquee signings to drag the attention of the fans. We saw the likes of Roberto Carlos, Alessandro Del Piero, Dimitar Berbatov, David Trezeguet, Diego Forlan, Robert Pires, Nicolas Anelka, Freddie Ljungberg, Tim Cahill and many more players playing in the ISL. Even though they might have not played a lot of matches but were very beneficial to the ISL as they brought ISL into the world map of football. Their fans followed them and watched them playing in the league. This in turn increased the popularity of the league. These players were here for their last pay cheque but now many players come to the ISL to be a part of the League not just for their final pay. Players like Roy Krishna, Garry Hooper, Costa Nhamoinesu , Adam Le Fondre have several years since they retire and have enough time to leave their mark on the league.

GROWTH OF THE LEAGUE

The league began in October 2014 with eight teams. During its first three seasons, the competition operated without official recognition from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the governing body for the sport in Asia.

Prior to the 2017–18 season, the league was not recognized officially by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the governing body for football in Asia, so for the first three seasons no ISL team was eligible to participate in Asian competition. However, in June 2017, it was announced that the AFC, along with FIFA, would recognize the Indian Super League and allow clubs to participate in the AFC Cup starting in 2019.

Bengaluru FC became the first Indian Super League club to play in Asian competition when they participated in the 2018 AFC Cup. The club qualified while still an I-League club and through winning the Federation Cup in 2017 but participated in the tournament as an ISL team after entering the league prior to the 2017–18 season. In March 2018, Chennaiyin FC became the first ISL side to qualify for the AFC Cup directly through the league. They qualified for the 2019 edition after winning the 2018 ISL final.

In October 2018, it was announced that the AFC had approved the proposed roadmap , which includes allowing the Indian Super League champion to qualify for the AFC Champions League qualifiers. A couple months later, in December 2019, it was officially announced by the AFC that they would be expanding the Champions League group stage from 32 teams to 40 and that the Indian Super League league stage winners shall qualify directly for the group stage from the 2021 edition onwards. The winner of the Indian Super League Final will continue to qualify for the AFC Cup qualifiers. In February 2020, FC Goa became the first ISL club to qualify for the Champions League after they won the League Winners Shield as the top ranked side after the league stage.

The Indian Super League would also include proper relegation and promotion from the Season 2024-2025. For comparision the A-League does not wants to inclue it upto until 2035.

Thus the ISL has progressed a lot from not even being officially recognised to getting a permanent spot in the Asian Champions League(ACL).

The fast growth of the league attract International players to the league.

WHY PLAYERS ARE LEAVING THE A-LEAGUE FOR THE ISL?

The short answer is a rather base motivating factor: money.

“The A-League, in terms of our salary, has gone down. We had a deal with Fox Sports that has been reduced this coming season, which means each team has less to spend this season,” says Donachie. He is referring to the nearly 60% reduction in the broadcasting deal that has crunched into the financial planning of all the clubs.

Last season, the salary caps for clubs in the ISL and the A-league were roughly similar — ~INR 16.5 crores, or AU$3.2 million. This season, the reduction in the broadcasting revenue has seen the league reduce the cap to AU$2.1 million, a whopping 30%+ reduction.

FC Goa’s director of football, Ravi Puskur explains that this means A-league clubs are finding it extremely hard to meet the requirements of players on high-wage contracts; hence, their openness for loan deals such as Donachie’s.

“It was just after they announced what the salary cap would be in Australia,” says Donachie about the move. “I had signed a three year deal, but then the salary cap got reduced and we had discussions on what they could do with it and the players they had. It was then that we signed the deal with Goa.”

It helps, of course, that players who have travelled to India have found success. The only person who scored more A-League goals than Le Fondre in 2018-19 was crowned ISL champion the next year — Roy Krishna is now a darling of the league. As is his ex-Wellington Phoenix teammate, David Williams, and both seem to be enjoying their time in India.

“We can earn more money there; we can play at a high level. To be quite honest, football in Australia is quite uncertain, I have had 6-7 A-League boys call me in the off-season about India. These are guys who you wouldn’t expect to want to go there, these guys are the top A-League players,” these were the words of Erik Paartalu.

“Players see it as an opportunity to be in a different culture. Contracts are stable in India, it’s not like you go there for three months and you don’t get paid, like places in Iran or South Korea – you don’t get run to the ground and you don’t get played.”

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE FUTURE?

The future of the Indian Super League looks extremely promising. With Indian football improving every passing day and the league also being better every season. We can confidently say that the time isn’t far away when we will see 4 ISL teams qualifying regularly for the ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE. Although it might be very hard almost next to impossible to shift the business world of football from Europe to Asia but at one time even Indian clubs playing in the ACL seemed impossible. It is achieveable but can be very hard. So we can conclude that the future looks very very bright for the INDIAN SUPER LEAGUE.

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