Tuesday, 22 December 2015

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22-DEC-2015 HINDU EDITORIAL

Right moves on the Soccer League

For all the flutter that the Indian Super League (ISL) has managed to create so far, a thrilling finish of the kind witnessed on Sunday, when Chennaiyin FC defeated FC Goa 3-2 in the final, seemed just apt. That the match was turned on its head with barely seconds remaining, even as it ensured a fairytale end, brought out in good measure the vagaries of sport in general and the quirkiness of football in particular. If Goa thought it had done enough to drag itself past the finish line when it took the lead with three minutes left, it was not to be. It showed, yet again, how a momentary lapse in concentration can damage fortunes in high pressure situations. If anything, only the unsavoury incidents which followed the final whistle marred what was a fierce but evenly contested tie. On the match itself there might not have been much to write home about. The flair and zest displayed by both teams in their run to the final was seen only in patches. But final matches, in which caution is often the watchword and avoiding mistakes is paramount, have a tendency to turn out the way this one did. However, there can be no doubting that the league’s two best teams contested the final. Goa scored a league-high 29 goals to enter the knock-outs while Chennaiyin, in addition to the 25 goals scored, also had the best defensive record, conceding only 15.

 After a successful opening season, there was a fair amount of scepticism as the second season got under way two months ago. For, the sophomore’s test is perhaps the toughest to pass. In spite of the bad press owing to the national team’s capitulation in the World Cup qualifiers, it can indeed be said that the ISL has managed to not lose its sheen. As Chennaiyin FC’s manager Marco Materazzi said on the eve of the final, “I hope that everyone sees the difference. All of us have done well to raise the level. Last year it took 19 points to reach the play-ofs. This year it is 22. I hope the improvement keeps happening. If it does, we will be the happiest people.” It also helped that, unlike the previous season, the cream of Indian football including captain Sunil Chhetri participated. Also, other Indian players under the tutelage of coaches such as the legendary Zico and Materazzi himself have blossomed. Having said that, there is still room for considerable improvement. The tournament must be scheduled in such a way that ISL matches do not run parallel to India’s international forays. The two are meant to complement each other, ultimately leading to the uplift of both. Zico’s repeated call for a single league, as against two separate entities in I-League and ISL, with very limited, but extremely good foreign players, is to be considered. The Brazilian great’s wealth of coaching experience in developing nations coupled with his standing in world football does merit that.

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