Arsene Wenger, the manager with the longest continuous tenure in the English Premier League*, has equated football to a virus. Arsene Wenger made the strangely apt analogy while talking about the future of the Indian Super League. Answering a question pertaining to whether he sees more English players moving to India in the future, Arsene Wenger told Arsenal’s Official Website,
I believe that if you look at the history of football, it has always become quicker and it looks like it grows everywhere. It’s like a virus that multiplies, so I don’t imagine that it won’t take off. It took a while in the United States but it’s now very popular.
Viral football. Heh. Most of our significant others call it a disease anyway. So, why shouldn’t Wenger?
You will note that the Indian Super League is being compared to Major League Soccer of the United States of America. This, in itself, is a big deal especially if you consider that one of the most revered managers in the history of the game is doing the comparing.
The format of the Indian Super League is very similar to the one followed in the US i.e. a combination of league and knockout competitions. India still has a long way to go, though. For one, we are only in the inaugural season and have only 8 teams. I expect the number of teams to grow very quickly, once the logistics are sorted out.
Arsene Wenger, showing his usual perceptive nature and understanding of global matters, continued,
It faces cricket in India but there’s always room for a second sport. There’s only really badminton and cricket in India at the moment but there’s room for another sport. I know that the people there watch the Premier League and I’m convinced that with such a huge population, it will take off.
How Arsene Wenger is Spot On as Always
Arsene Wenger essentially listed a number of intrinsic aspects of the Indian setup there. You have the usual India is a cricketing nation which is nothing new but then you also have the large population reference. India’s large population will indeed help ISL grow.
Remember, most of us already watch the EPL, the Serie A, and the La Liga. Why can’t we split off some of our time to our own nation’s football league? Our devotion knows no bounds so why should we limit who receives it? For all you know, one day, we all will have the dilemma of whether we should support our local club or the global behemoths like Manchester United, Barcelona, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Chelsea as they step up against our special hero who has a movie names after him, “Bend it like Banwari”.
There’s also the matter of support from the I-League which may be a major stumbling block which I’m sure Arsene Wenger doesn’t know about. Teams like Churchill Brothers have frowned upon the entire idea of the ISL since before it took form. Since teams like these own most of the Indian players, it’s hard to see how the ISL can progress without them being on board.
One way that I can see is that these teams get incorporated into the ISL and the ISL gets expanded to a full season with complete FIFA approval. I won’t mind seeing these old I-League teams either. This poses another problem of money. The I-League teams are not exactly cash rich cows. They’ll find it hard to compete with the imports of the much richer ISL teams which are backed by some of the richest names in the country. Again, introducing new owners into the equity structure may be the way to go.
There are a number of problems which will need to be solved if the future of ISL is going to be as bright as we all football fans want it to be. For now, we have to be satisfied with being noticed by the global legends of football and getting to see the likes of Pires, Anelka, Elano, Trezeguet, and Garcia strut their stuff on our soil.
*He has been with Arsenal FC since 1996.