On Tuesday, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, second-placed Mumbai City FC will play Delhi Dynamos in the Indian Super League (ISL).
Alexandre Guimaraes’ side, however, will do so without two prominent players. Marquee signing Diego Forlan, aged 37, is expected to recover only in time for their home match against FC Goa on Friday, and India international Sunil Chhetri is busy preparing for greater battles with Bengaluru FC.
To an extent, age explains Forlan’s absence, and teams missing marquee players is not new to the ISL. Chhetri’s, however, is a curious reflection of the confusing state of Indian football. Bengaluru FC, champions of the I-League, will on Wednesday play the second leg of their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup semi-final against Malaysian side Johor Darul, after the first ended 1-1 on the road.
That game clearly holds more significance than any ISL match, for no Indian club has reached the final of the AFC Cup. Former I-League champions Dempo and East Bengal made it to the semi-finals, but no further.
Coach Guimaraes, however, has made peace with the situation. “I was informed of the situation from the beginning, when we started the pre-season. What really makes it a strong situation (concern), are the injuries,” said the Costa Rican. “Our players from Bengaluru are in a situation (sic) that is very good for Indian football. I wish the best for Indian football. If they are there and reach the heights, it is good for Indian football. I will have to adapt,” the coach added.
Besides Chhetri, Bengaluru’s Amrinder Singh, Udanta Singh and Lalchhuanmawai Fanai too have penned a deal with Mumbai City FC for the season; a result of the peculiar sharing economy necessitated by the existence of two leagues.
Delhi Dynamos’ coach Gianluca Zambrotta is hoping the local side will get better support than it did in the game against the NorthEast United. “Home support is definitely a big advantage. In the first match there were many fans, of course, it was the other team that got a lot of support. It would be a psychological boost if the team gets good support from the fans.”