The Franco Accusation; The Miku Speculation; The Ferrando Initiation

I go through football news like all of you. Us bloggers need to do it much more than you guys. How else do you think we allow ourselves to pretend to know so much? That is our hubris – “that we read news”. Lame but true. So in the most recent of my trawls, three little titbits stood out – the Franco Accusation, the Miku Speculation, and the Ferrando Initiation. Continue reading

Foreign Signings in the ISL Part II – The Other 5 Clubs

[As of 03-09-2017]

This is the second group and it includes FC Pune City, Chennaiyin FC, FC Goa, Jamshedpur FC, and Bengaluru FC. In this group, I feel that FC Pune City will do well. Why? It’s because I like their signings so far, their coach has grown on me over the past three seasons, and their transfer business is, by no means, complete for this season.

Goa should also be interesting to watch as they try to ditch the green and yellow motif (Brazil) for the red and yellow insignia (Spain). Intros are fluff. Let’s get down to the meat of the post. Continue reading

Foreign Signings in the ISL Part I – The First 5 Clubs

[Date: 03-9-2017]

So, I will be dividing the review of foreign signings into two posts. There are 10 teams, after all and every one of them has made foreign signings (Yes, even NEUTD FC…).

In this post, I will focus on Amar, Tomar, Kolkata (remember to use sarcasm tone), Kerala Blasters FC, Delhi Dynamos (haha Vogliotti), Mumbai City FC, and Northeast United FC (get someone, FFS).

From the outset, let me say that I like the business done by the previous year’s finalists, ATK and KBFC. They’ve gotten in big names and more importantly, they’ve gotten in some very effective players. The dark horse in this group will be Delhi Dynamos. Even with the Vogliotti faux-glioti fiasco, their objective of playing the South American brand of football interests me. I want to see how it works in India particularly considering our climate. Let’s go then. Continue reading

A Football Fan’s Response to Mainstream Media’s ISL Marquee Players Narrative

ISL Marquee Players

Football in India is still developing and has a potential to be something really special. However, misinterpretations and misrepresentations can derail that development potential in a hurry. This is an effort from an Indian football fan to prevent that derailment published first on the Outside of the Boot website.

The Indian football fan is an infant in a world where families have generations of football team followers. We’ve all heard of people who’ve been following a team from the moment they learnt to walk. In fact, when there are multiple teams located in a single city, it can invariably cause members of the same family to support different teams. We Indians can only imagine the kind of married spats and sibling rivalries that must create in those households. However, all this does not mean that Indian football or the Indian fan must be taken with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately, the Indian media seems to think otherwise.

Within a few days of the beginning of the Indian Super League’s 2015 session, stories trashing the ISL Marquee Players concept started appearing in Indian mainstream media. Unsurprisingly, it seems to have become norm for Indian publications and channels. Virtually, every single one of them has at least one article, programme, or episode explaining why getting ISL Marquee Players is such a bad idea for everyone and everything involved from Indian football, Indian footballers, Indian national team, and Indian fans to their grannies. Well, we Indian fans beg to differ. Here’s a response from an Indian fan against Indian mainstream media’s convenient ISL Marquee Players narrative.

A Word on Mainstream Media’s ISL Marquee Players Narrative

For those of you who are not Indians, are Indians but not football fans, or are neither Indians nor football fans, let’s establish the context. Let’s explain why the Indian media and possibly some international media organisations are opposing the idea and benefits of ISL Marquee Players. In simplest of terms, the reason is this:

Mutu 36 9 568 291 198 0 38 21 4 5 13 3
Postiga 32 1 74 24 9 0 2 2 2 1 1 0
Anelka 34 6 389 267 173 0 11 9 0 9 6 8
Elano 34 12 811 459 285 4 34 23 4 15 3 5
Simao 35 10 507 273 203 2 6 5 3 12 2 10
Carlos 42 3 138 61 51 0 4 2 0 3 0 2
Marchena 36 1 50 37 30 0 0 0 0 2 1 2
Lucio 37 10 900 244 207 1 6 3 0 35 12 24
Key: Age (A), Matches Played (MP), Minutes (Min), Passes Attempted (PA), Passes Completed (PC), Assists (A), Shots (S), Shots on Target (SOT), Goals (G), Tackles (T), Aerial Duels Won (AW), Interceptions (I)

Those are the playing stats of all ISL Marquee Players in the 2015 season up until November 4, 2015. If you only look at the table, you’ll notice most of the prevalent bugbears that Indian mainstream media has against the ISL Marquee Players concept. It seems as if the stringers hired for the job (football hasn’t been all that popular in India, you see, and ROIs on hiring dedicated football journalists don’t really pan out for media organisations) simply look at the stats and write their pieces. Let’s approach those bugbears one by one.

  • Age: Players are past their prime. This is a fair argument but it fails to notice that 4 out of 8 ISL Marquee Players have played more than half of their teams’ matches.
  • Passing: Players are not central to their teams. Alright, only one of the 8 players listed above (Elano) is in the top 20 stats of the league. However, included in the top 20 are players like Florent Malouda, Nicky Shorey, and Didier Zokora who could’ve been ISL Marquee Players in their own right.
  • Shots & Goals: Players are not contributing. The list of top 20 players in terms of goals includes Elano, Mutu, Simao, and Iain Hume (last year’s ISL Marquee Player). In fact, Hume is second in the list with 10 goals. In terms of assists, the top 20 list includes Malouda, Hume, Elano, and Shorey with Malouda in 2nd
  • Defence: Marchena played 1 game only. It’s true that Carlos Marchena only played one game but things like that happen even in the big European leagues.

As shown above, there is evidence against the concept of ISL Marquee Players. However, there are also benefits of the concept that are conveniently omitted from all the reports in mainstream media. Those benefits are far more important than the limitations. So, why is mainstream media counselling against the concept of ISL Marquee Players? The reason is that the benefits of the ISL Marquee Players concept cannot be quantified as easily as its limitations. Here are some of them.

The Impact of Legendary Footballers on Indian Players

If you really want to improve at something, do you choose to play against weaker players or better players? Any individual serious about improving will say better players. Someone better than us at something will always push us to match them.

This is precisely what is created by the ISL Marquee Players concept. When Indian players go up against legendary footballers from the four corners of the world, they exposed to skillsets, mind-sets, and playing styles that they’ve never seen before. After all, it’s not like Indian footballers travel a lot abroad to play with foreign players.

Before the ISL, even the Indian national football team only played against other Asian minnows. In fact, even the Asian minnows would beat us willy-nilly. Now, with the ISL Marquee Players, Indian players get a whole new perspective on football.

Look at what happened to Romeo from FC Goa when he played under Zico and with players like Andre Santos and Robert Pires last season. Santos isn’t even considered to be a world beater but his influence on the FC Goa team was pretty obvious.

The only reason the results of the Indian national football team haven’t improved is because the management is resisting the induction of Indian Super League players. Once this happens and the new additions get a little bit of time to work with each other, there will be results and rapid climb up the table for India.

Tangible and Intangible Demands of Football Greats

Just look at the state of the pitch...dust bowl anyone?

Just look at the state of the pitch…dust bowl anyone?

When a player comes to a fledgling franchise in India after having played for Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Juventus, PSG, Liverpool, Manchester City, Porto, Valencia, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Sevilla, and Barcelona not to mention national teams like Spain, France, England, Brazil, and Portugal, that player will expect only the best.

Most of the ISL Marquee Players must’ve come to India and immediately provided inputs to franchise managers on how they can improve their training and facilities. Not only this, these football greats will also have brought in state of the art training methods and perspectives that Indian coaches wouldn’t have had till now.

This is exactly why the standard of Indian players has improved since the Indian Super League began. It is also why I – League clubs are worried about their position of being the biggest fish in the smallest ponds.

Does The Inclusion Of Football Icons Have Any Impact On Development?

Lucky, lucky Robin Singh

Lucky, lucky Robin Singh

Here’s another question which can be answered by common sense. What happens when you bring an iconic figure to a backwater corner of the world? The backwater corner stops being backwater because it is suddenly lifted up by the shining glory of that icon.

Make no mistake, footballistically, India was a backwater country before the Indian Super League showed up. If ISL was the system that stopped India from being a backwater country, the people who actually boosted the country’s image in the world were no other than all the ISL Marquee Players. It is because of the ISL Marquee Players that Indian football is being talked about in the US, Europe, and South America.

It wasn’t the Indian greats that made it happen. In fact, the Indian greats still can’t make it happen but they’ll get there so long as they continue playing with ISL Marquee Players. Imagine what kind of tips Sunil Chhetri must be getting from Nicolas Anelka.

Imagine what Florent Malouda must be teaching Robin Singh about movement in the channels. Imagine how Didier Zokora must be rounding the overly aggressive game of Eugeneson Lyngdoh. Imagine what understanding Nicky Shorey must be imparting onto the young shoulders of Jackichand Singh.

More importantly, the inputs from these football greats must’ve also been used in all the grassroots development that has been happening in the country since the establishment of the Indian Super League. Since, the ISL Marquee Players concept is at the heart of the ISL concept, how can supposed football experts not see what these players bring to the table even if they don’t play more than a single minute!

Indian Football Needs ISL Marquee Players

Any person with a balanced head on his shoulders and only the future of Indian football in his heart would applaud all the ISL Marquee Players, regardless of how little they’ve played.

Let’s swallow our false pride and accept that our existing systems of football were not working. Let’s bend a little and show some gratitude to the likes of Roberto Carlos, Robert Pires, Alessandro Del Pierro, Fredrik Ljungberg, and Carlos Marchena for agreeing to come to play in our country.

The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look. In the case of Indian football, the greatest enemy hides in our footballing souls and egos. Indian football needs to be exorcised. Not from any past demons or foreign meddling but from our artificially inflated perspectives of our own selves.

Indian Super League 2015 Preview II: FCPC, MCFC, Dynamos, and NEUTD FC

Indian Super League 2015This is the second half the Indian Super League 2015 preview. In the last instalment, I gave my opinion of how Atletico De Kolkata, Kerala Blasters FC, Chennaiyin FC, and FC Goa have prepared for ISL2. My focus was on the backroom (senior management) staff and their efforts because they seem to always escape attention. However, it is the senior management that is mostly responsible for getting in new players, getting the existing players to sign contracts, and even improving the training facilities.

I grant you naysayers that the system on which the Indian Super League is built isn’t all that “senior management” focused but that doesn’t mean that those rich blokes can sit on their arse and do nothing. They have to be active during the off season in getting in new international players and re-signing the players that their managers have pinpointed as must-have.

Mumbai City FC Will Be One Of The Most Improved Teams And Should Reach Playoffs

Mumbai City - Sony NordeBe afraid; be very afraid of what Mumbai City FC can do this season. MCFC fans must be licking their lips at the prospect of seeing this team out in the field. I think what Nicolas Anelka has done with this team in his managerial capacity is nothing than brilliant.

The choice of his signings as well as the kind of signings he has made show that The Great Sulk has it when it comes to management. For instance, Anelka has focused on high quality attackers and looked for consistent defenders. His team’s attack force is being lauded in the mainstream media and rightly so. He’s got some real talent on the attacking front and what’s scary is that all of them won’t even be able to enter the field at the same time.

Consider the fact that Anelka can line up Frederic Piquionne, Sunil Chhetri, Andre Moritz, and Sony Norde on a single pitch, if he chose to overload his attack. Of these, the only player I am not sure of is Frederic Piquionne. I wasn’t sure of his abilities when he was in the peak of his years and now that he’s 36 years old, I am even more sceptical. Sunil Chhetri needs no introduction to any Indian football fan but I will point out that he will most probably not play MCFC’s first two games on account of his national team hero’s doodies. The same goes for Andre Moritz and Sony Norde with the latter lighting up last year’s I-League with 13 assists and nine goals.

Mumbai City FC - Darren O DeaAnelka’s decision to go for consistent defenders from lower European leagues is a stroke of genius too. Defending is only an art form at really higher levels.

At lower level football, defending is more about being in the right place consistently which is a result of good physical fitness and decision making.

I think with the defenders Anelka will rely on like Darren O’Dea (a former Bhoy), Frantz Bertin (a good, mobile defender), and Cmovs (we know what he can do already) will be more than capable of blunting most other teams’ attacks this season. This list doesn’t even include Juan Aguilera Nunez and Selim Benachour, both of whom are capable of dribbling, passing, and creating chances from midfield.

All this adds up to one thing and one thing alone. I predict Mumbai City FC to have a great Indian Super League 2015 season. Whichever way you look at it, MCFC fans should get ready to party in the coming three months of the Indian Super League 2015.

FC Pune City Can Click Or Miss In the Indian Super League 2015 Season

FC Pune City is a mystery. Their chances in the Indian Super League 2015 season are in flux. The situation of FC Pune City is such that their fans will be feeling incredibly positive while their detractors will be rubbing their palms in glee too. The reason why I feel that FC Pune City’s fate is too hard to call is that there are too many uncertain variables involved.

For instance, take their manager, David Platt. Platt was a good man to bank on in his playing days but his managerial career has neither been stellar nor abysmal. He has cruised through his managerial career almost ambivalently. He could make all the difference in the case of FC Pune City or he could get trapped in mediocrity.

FC Pune City’s marquee player is Adrian Mutu and he is travelling in the same boat. At his peak, Mutu was a star performer. He had the talent, pace, power, and skill to take apart any defence but he got taken apart by his penchant for drugs. I’ll be frank: I liked Mutu even though he played for Chelsea before he actually got caught with drugs in his system.

Following double bans, Mutu’s career dove into oblivion in a blur. He could continue his bad boy attitude or turn it around with FC Pune City in the Indian Super League 2015 season. To be fair to Mutu, he does have noble intentions this time around. He has come out and said that he hopes to make the Euro 2016 if Romania qualifies. Apparently, his manager has told him that if he plays well, then he’ll be considered for the trip to France.

That’s enough incentive for any professional footballer. It is doubly so for one who has thrown away his whole career for entertainment, indulgence, and sheer stupidity. Whether the Indian Super League 2015 season will be Mutu’s redemption season or not will play a major role in how FC Pune City performs.

Mainstream media says that Mutu will be partnered by the Nigerian international Kalu Uche. Uche isn’t of the same pedigree as Mutu when it comes to talent but he does have a very unpredictable snapshot that could get him a few goals in ISL2. Still, instead of Uche, I think Tuncay Sanli will be a better option for Platt for partnering Mutu. Sanli is a Turkish star who is capable of scoring and assisting. Sanli has a good freekick on him too. If Sanli and Mutu click, then FC Pune City will click too in Indian Super League 2015.

Indian midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh can also come really good for FC Pune City. Eugene is a central midfielder who has a calm, composed, and visionary head on his shoulders. As for the other well-known Indian midfielder in FC Pune City’s ranks, Jackichand Singh, you can see him as the Romeo of the Indian Super League 2015 season. Jackichand Singh is a tricky winger who can be expected to have a breakout season a la Romeo last year.

FC Pune City - Didier ZokoraDefence of FC Pune City is decent but not great with recognisable but non-star names like Nicky Shorey (left back / centre back) and Roger Johnson (central defender). Both, Shorey and Johnson have heavy experience in English Premier League. I have seen them both play in the past and both of them are consistent.

They will do the FC Pune City defence a world of good especially since they’ll be protected by hard man Didier Zokora. Zokora is another who has had good top flight exposure in multiple leagues. However, I think his temperament is suspect because he has a tendency to get too many cards.

When I consider FC Pune City’s Indian Super League 2015 squad, I see hope for boom and hints of bust.

This is why I think that their future can be a hit or a miss. Personally, I hope they do well. I’ve always liked a fairy-tale story and would appreciate such stories for people like Mutu. I also want to see Eugene and Jackichand do well (yes I am a martial arts / Jackie Chan fan like his parents).

Northeast United FC Can Surprise Everyone in the Indian Super League 2015 Season

Say what you will but I will always have a soft spot for any team or individual who is trying to compete with limited resources by focusing on long term development. This is why I am a lifetime fan of Arsenal and this is why I like Northeast United FC. There’s something special about striving when the odds are all up against you. In simple terms, I want Northeast United FC to succeed because they remind me of Rocky – the underdog.

So, what was it that sucked so badly with Northeast United FC last season? At the root of it all was lack of funds but on the pitch, it was their attack. Their defence was fairly steady led by Miguel Garcia but NEUTD FC was almost toothless in attack. They would maintain possession but have no way to breach defences. They’ve focused on these flaws and prepared for the Indian Super League 2015 season well if you ask me.

They’ve changed their manager and brought in Cesar Faria. Cesar Faria likes to play possession football and does have some serious achievements in his past in the role of the manager. It might be a coup for NEUTD FC to have gotten him. I am very curious to see what Faria can do with a team as brimming with talent and energy as NEUTD FC. Under his tutelage and tactical acumen, I expect to see some surprise results from NEUTD FC.

In addition to their manager, NEUTD FC have also brought in Simao Sabrosa. Simao is a playmaker who can play in the wings or as a central attacking midfielder. He has awesome dribbling and free kick ability. Both of these are skills that make a difference in the Indian setup as we saw in the last season (think Elano, Santos, and Dos Santos). Simao has had a rich and happening career. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that if there was no Ronaldo, he could’ve been the most popular footballer from Portugal.

Northeast United FC - Boubacar SanogoAnother gem that NEUTD FC have brought in is Boubacar Sanogo. Sanogo is an Ivory Coast international and any football follower would tell you that Ivory Coast is no longer a chump team in world football.

To have gotten into their national team is an achievement in itself so I think Sanogo will be a good player to watch. Sanogo will most probably be partnered by Diomansy Kamara – the man whose best days were spent at Portsmouth, West Bromwich Albion, and Fulham.

Kamara is also a dribbler and channel runner so he should dovetail well with both Sanogo and Simao. They also have Francis Dadzie and Nicolas Velez who can play in attack. Dadzie will be a physically imposing backup striker while Velez I think will be deployed on the wings.

It would be interesting to see who is between the sticks for NEUTD FC between Gennaro Bracigliano and Rehenesh TP. Although I do think it will be the former and not the latter simply on age and experience.

In Indian Super League 2015, I expect NEUTD FC to challenge for the last playoff spot and possibly make it if they can really maximise their potential.

Delhi Dynamos FC Will Continue To Be The Worst Team In The Indian Super League 2015 Season

Adil Nabi! Adil Nabi! And Adil Nabi! That’s all that Delhi Dynamos FC fans have to be cheerful about in the Indian Super League 2015 season. Fine; seeing Roberto Carlos Florent Malouda, and John Arne Riise on the same pitch maybe something that will make them smile. However, I still feel that the one player who’ll truly shine for them in the Indian Super League 2015 season will be Nabi. Carlos is so much past his best that he has a belly; Malouda had started disappearing in games long before he came to Delhi, and Riise is a defender by trade who never really had a lot of flair.

The reason why I think Adil Nabi will be a standout performer for Delhi Dynamos FC in the Indian Super League 2015 season is his skill. He is young, has oodles of technique, and even has that rare striker’s instinct. Mark my word, he will make many defenders in ISL2 look like muppets on their backside before he’s done. For those of you wondering why he is here, my answer is simple. West Bromwich Albion have been focusing on India for a long time as a market they want to tap into.

If Nabi can capture some fans, then West Brom get those fans by simple transference. At the same time, Delhi Dynamos FC has experience in the form of Carlos, Malouda, and Riise. West Brom must be hoping that Nabi can learn something from them. I still think this loan is more of a business call than a youth development call.

I hope Carlos pairs Nabi with Robin Singh but I have a feeling that Richard Gadze (can’t see him being all that good) will get preference there. Riise will most probably be a central defender or be deployed in midfield. I have no idea where Carlos sees himself playing. Midfield should also see Serginho Greene (hard tackler), Dos Santos (had a good season last time), and Hans Mulder (the man from Star Wars and the X-Files).

While Delhi Dynamos FC has improved from last season, according to me, the improvement isn’t enough. They will remain the worst as per my assessment. I think even Northeast United FC will be above them this time around but it will be a close run thing.