Rumours Abound about Next Year’s ISL Marquee Players

Thierry Henry may join the other ISL marquee players to light up the Indian Super League next year. I can’t keep the grin off my face! What wonderful news! But then what do you expect from an Arsenal fan? Any football lover should love this man, even if you’re not an Arsenal fan. After all, he is going to be the only Invincible playing on Indian soil. The man led a team through 49 unbeaten matches. How can you not love him if you love football?

Really…Henry May Join FC Goa Next Year

You! Yes You! He's Coming to Dazzle You!

Pires: You! Yes You! He’s Coming to Dazzle You!

Seriously speaking though, according to L’Equipe of France, it’s possible that Thierry Henry will join FC Goa as their ISL marquee player. L’Equipe’s article even went on to suggest that Pires has been selling the ISL to his long time buddy. If you’re wondering what will happen to Robert Pires then I have even better news. He’ll become the team’s Player Manager so that Henry can become their marquee players. Imagine that, seeing Vroom power on Indian soil.

As per reports in the French publication, Henry has supposedly already had a chat with Pires about the likelihood of joining FC Goa next year. As many of you may already know, Henry was approached by Delhi Dynamos before this inaugural season began but he declined to join the league possibly because he was uncertain of the quality of the league. However, the formal reasoning given for the rejection was that he was tied with his current club New York Red Bulls.

ISL’s Rising Popularity Abroad Cited as the Reason

It seems the rising popularity of the Indian Super League has been turning heads all over the world. Reports even suggest that the ISL marquee players have managed to lure some European audience for the Indian Super League.

It’s not that surprising though because ISL marquee players like Robert Pires, Alessandro Del Piero, Koke, Luis Garcia, and Capdevila all have devoted fans from their respective countries. There’re also South American players in the league who have a decent following in their respective countries such as Elano. It’s probably all these fans of key ISL marquee players who have increased the viewership of the Indian Super League abroad abroad.

Other Possible ISL Marquee Players?

Before I let my excitement over Henry’s possible (hopefully impending) arrival get out of hand, I should mention that he isn’t the only legend who may be joining our band of ISL marquee players next year. It’s possible that former England International and Manchester United icon Rio Ferdinand along with formerly Bayern Munich’s and Peru International Claudio Pizarro may also join the ranks of ISL marquee players next year. I am so happy that I started this blog! Cheers!

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Video: Top 8 ISL Goals

I have a video for you today. It’s a video containing the top 8 ISL goals up until October 25, 2014 which means that it’s a selection of the best ISL goals up till the Northeast United FC’s 2 – 0 win over Mumbai City FC. It’s a simple video but that is the beauty of it. Even though I wouldn’t have picked the same goals in my top 8 ISL goals, it’s a matter of perspective at the end of the day. Just watch the goals and enjoy without worrying about all the flimflam that video editors of today tend to go for.

I particularly liked the goal from Bernard Mendy with the overhead kick that went into the top corner like a bullet. Remember, Mendy is supposed to be a defender. Still, he’s always had that offensive streak. Elano with his cool and composed freekick taking abilities and Elias’s outside the foot lash of a shot also deserve a mention.

The video was created by the people at VidioLikes. Commendations all around! Cheers!

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ISL Stadiums: Learn Where Your Favourite ISL Team Plays

This is the inaugural season of the Indian Super League. So, it’s understandable that we don’t really know about all the little intricacies of the teams even though we’ve seen multiple ISL stadiums by now and may even be on the verge of choosing one to support.

I, for one, feel this intense temptation to throw my hat in with the Chennaiyin fans even though I’m based in Delhi. Why, you ask? Well, simply because I like a team that plays good football and so far Chennaiyin has impressed me. Still, I can’t really make the decision without some more watching. I’m sure I’ll know which team I support by the end of December… erm… almost.

ISL Stadiums

Let’s get back to the point. You’ve been watching these matches and may even be rooting for your teams but do you know about the stadiums that these teams play in? We’ve all heard of the Bernabeu of Real Madrid, the Nou Camp of Barcelona, Old Trafford of Manchester United, the Emirates of Arsenal, the Allianz Arena of Bayern Munich, and the recently infamous SportsDirect.com @ St. James’ Park of Newcastle United but do we know which ISL stadiums our teams play in?*

I’m here to correct this little oversight. Here we go.

Atletico de Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium

ISL Stadium KolkataLocated in Kolkata, this stadium was built in 1984 and is the largest football stadium in the country with a maximum capacity of 68,000.** Like most other things in this country, we’ve tried to maximise the use of this gem of a stadium because this ISL stadium is home to not only the ISL table topper but also four other teams, namely Mohun Bagan AC, East Bengal FC, and Mohammedan SC.

Chennaiyin FC’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium

JNS ChennaiThis is one of four ISL stadiums that share the name. We know how much we respect our first Prime Minister. Such is the cosmic national Indian respect that I almost wrote Chacha before all of that. The stadium first came into being in 1993 and has a total capacity of 40,000. BTW, if you see animals prowling during matches in this stadium, don’t be surprised because it was built over the old Madras Zoo.

Delhi Dynamos FC’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium

JNS DelhiThe second ISL stadium titled JNS in this list, this stadium was built in 1982 for Asian Games but was renovated before the highly controversial Commonwealth Games of 2010. Does anyone know what happened to Suresh Kalmadi? He just disappeared from the news. The stadium’s capacity is 60,254. The South Asian Games were held in this ISL stadium and Bayern Munich also played the Indian Football Team in 2013 here.

FC Goa’s Fatorda Stadium

Fatorda Stadium GoaFatorda Stadium reminds me of a wide variety of dishes largely because I can’t forget the word Asafoetida. It’s supposed to be some kind of a spice used in rare delicacies in India. Can you guess the official name of this stadium? Ah, you’re right! Its Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. FC Goa have been unable to add spice to their ISL stadium this season even though the lush green park offers one of the better playing surfaces in the league. The stadium is also home to Churchill Brothers, Dempo, Salgaocar, and Sporting Clube de Goa.

Kerala Blasters FC’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium

JNS KochiThe fourth and last JNS in this list belongs to Kerala Blasters. The ISL stadium is the largest of the lot as its capacity is 75,000. The stadium was inaugurated in 1996 and is home to Kerala Strikers, FC Kochin, and Kerala Football Team. This stadium was primarily built so that it could host football matches. However, it has subsequently been used for cricket matches as well.

Mumbai City FC’s DY Patil Stadium

DY Patil Stadium MumbaiThis ISL stadium was established for the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008. For those of you who’re not Indians, that’s the special cricket league that everyone is crazy about in this country. The stadium can hold up to 55,000 people and is known for its state of the art facilities.

Northeast United’s Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium

Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium GuwahatiThis is one of the simpler ISL stadiums in the league right now but it won’t be surprising if it gets developed because of its involvement in the league. The stadium opened in 2007 and can hold about 35,000 souls. Before the ISL started, this stadium could only support 12,000 people but had to be renovated to meet FIFA’s restrictions.

FC Pune City’s Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex

Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex PuneYes, the more you travel to the south, the longer the names get. My fingers are grateful that there isn’t an ISL stadium in Trivandrum and that the Keralites kept their stadium’s name simple. This ISL stadium was opened in 1995 and is even simpler than Northeast United’s home ground. It earlier boasted of a capacity of 12,000 which was increased to 22,000 recently.

*Fun fact time. Have you heard of Wankdorf Stadium? It was in Switzerland and the team that used to play there was called BSC Young Boys. Ahem, cough, cough. You never grow old with that kind of a profession eh?

**Just to put things in perspective, the Emirates stadium’s capacity is 60,272, Old Trafford’s is 75,635, and Wembley’s is 90,000.

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Match report: Chennaiyin FC 5 – 1 Mumbai City FC

Chennaiyin FC's ElanoChennaiyin FC taught Mumbai City FC a lesson at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium today. While Mumbai have the elegance of Anelka, it was Chennaiyin who took all the points and bragging rights.

In fact, Chennaiyin dominated the match from start to finish, ripping apart Mumbai’s defence time and again with barely any effort. The destruction was fuelled by the pace of Jeje Lalpekhlua and Stiven Mendoza and the vision of Elano.

Between Jeje and Mendoza, though, it was Mendoza who deserves all the accolades that anyone can give him while Elano glided, floated, cruised, and almost turned water into wine on the pitch.

The Chennaiyin FC’s First Goal

The first goal came through a penalty from Elano. Mendoza turned into the box from the right flank, side stepping defenders before losing the ball which rolled free. At this point, Friedrich decided to put in a wild swing disguised as a tackle but the referee was having none of it. Friedrich was lucky actually. He could have been sent off because his wild swing was so wild that he banged the knee of Mendoza. Elano, the set piece expert stepped up and side footed the ball to his right at great pace. 1 – 0. This was, by the way, Elano’s fourth goal in four matches.

Materazzi gets headbutted by ZidaneOn the other end, Chennaiyin’s player cum coach Materazzi (the taunt-your-opponent-to-lose-his-head man), along with his cohorts Silvestre and Bernard Mendy, owned the pitch on the other end. They were there for virtually every cross, slide rule pass, and random punt forward from Mumbai (most of their attacks were random punts just so you know). The Chennaiyin keeper seemed to have felt some of the pain that Mumbai was feeling because he actually tried to give them a goal a couple of times by spilling a ball and coming for a cross wrongly.

Mumbai, while entirely dominated, did get a few chances, the pick of which was a Friedrich free header from the penalty spot through an in swinging corner. Another was when Subhash got free only to see Silvestre come across and tackle him soundly. It had to be good too because he was the last man. He never made such tackles for Arsenal, bah!

After this was a period where the match dulled, settled, slowed, and puttered. However, then Raju stepped up and my amusement rose. He reminded me of one Rory Delap from Stoke. His long throw-ins were amusing and so was Raju’s, although his was actually better and stronger than Delap’s used to be.

Mendoza Makes his Presence Felt

Chennaiyin FC's Stevin MendozaThe game livened up again after a dull period and it was none other than Mendoza who got free from the left inside. The ball was lofted to him; it was bouncing, so he could only hit it against the keeper who saved well. Yet again, Elano spotted a runner and caressed the ball over the top to him. It was Jeje who didn’t need a controlling touch and simply stroked the ball with his left foot to the keeper’s left and into the goal. 2 – 0. He showed the kind of talent that took him to Glasgow Rangers in Scotland earlier.

At this point, it was surprisingly to see that Mumbai had more possession but then Chennaiyin is a counterattacking team that invites opponents into their half before breaking with aplomb. Chennaiyin actually only had about 39% possession.

I have to say that I was disappointed with Mumbai even though Chennaiyin’s defence is star-studded. I understand that Anelka is recovering from injury and may not be 100 percent but Peter Reid’s tactics were atrocious. In the first half, it was all about long punts forward. Really? You want long punts forward with Materazzi in the other team’s defence? Did you by any chance mistake your usual chewing gum with some sort of a weed cookie? What about your defence? Did you give them those cookies too because they were playing like they were stoned? I think, on evidence of this game, he’ll be replaced in the next season.

Chennaiyin served up another chance which Mumbai’s keeper saved again. Mumbai’s keeper needs to be commended. Well played. He’s the only one who kept the score pseudo-respectable. By this time, Chennaiyin could have been up by 4 – 0. Subhash for Mumbai got a chance to get his team back into the match but couldn’t take it.

The Goal Glut Begins

Mumbai FC's Nicolas AnelkaMendoza threatened again from the left side of the box but his shot went over. He then turned up in the right back position defending and winning balls. Good call for the man of the match along with Elano. Mendoza made up for it after a bit though. Elano took a freekick from 34 yards out, swinging the ball into the keeper low, who promptly spilled it. Mendoza was there to nudge the ball into the net. 3 – 0.

Mendoza took his tally to 2 for the match when Elano set him free with another beautiful over the top pass. Mendoza did well to curve his run to break the offside trap. He pushed the ball over the keeper and followed it in. 4 – 0. Interesting fact time. Chennaiyin is the first team in ISL to score 4 goals in the first half.

Mumbai then had a claim for handball in the box turned down rightfully. Subhash complained to the referee, Materazzi stepped in, and lo and behold, there was a scuffle.

That was the first half. Second half turned out to be fairly dull with Mumbai passing from right to left and then from left to right with the central midfielders in the middle. The exception was Elano’s free kick from the side which made the score 5 – 0. His right footed ball from an acute angle outside the box curled through a couple of players into the bottom far corner.

The rest of the half was fairly dull and dreary. There were a slew of substitutions. Before the end, Mumbai pulled one goal back to 5 – 1 from a corner. The scorer was Nabi who headed the ball in. There was no celebration and no emotion. The game was over and Mendoza and Elano both missed out on their hat-tricks.

A word for Anelka. I know you didn’t hear much about him in this report but that’s because he was largely anonymous. He’ll turn on his magic later in the season. You just wait and watch…and pray.

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Pires, Habas, and Lemessa Receive ISL Bans

ISL BansIt seems the altercation between Pires, Habas, and Lemessa have resulted in the first proper flexing of legal muscles by the Indian Super League i.e. ISL bans. From reports, it seems that a scuffle broke out between FC Goa’s Robert Pires on one side and the manager of Atletico de Kolkata, Antonio Lopez Habas, and Kolkata’s striker, Fikru Lemessa, on the other.

Early media reports suggested that Pires was punched by Habas and there was no further details provided. However, after a thorough investigation, all the parties have been charged with breaching the rule of governed by Offensive Behaviour and Fair Play clause (Article 58) of the AIFF Disciplinary Code.

Robert Pires and Fikru Lemessa have been banned for two matches of ISL while Habas has received a four match ISL ban which confirms that he did, indeed, take a dislike to Pires’s toothy smirk. Kolkata’s goalkeeping coach, one Predipkumar Bhaktawer was handed a one match suspension as well.

In addition to these ISL bans and suspensions, Pires, Lemessa, and Habas, each have been fined a tidy sum of Rs 5,00,000 (five lakh). Bhaktawer was told to pay up Rs 30,000 (thirty thousand) as well.

That’s nice of ISL organisers – to pocket about Rs 15, 30, 000. I wonder what they plan to do with the money. Will there be some investment in the country’s football players?

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