As the inaugural Indian Super League (ISL) season enters its final day, re-assessment of the league is finding voice. Learn and adapt seem to be the motto. Organisers have already begun the process and are planning to extend the 10-week event to three months.
According to Andy Knee, vice-president, IMG Sports, the league is likely to begin in September next year, allowing better spacing between matches to allow players sufficient time to recover.
"We see that most players want to give it their 100%, but injuries have been a common occurrence. We also understand that football is a physically-draining sport," Knee told HT.
Players have complained of relentless travel and minimal days for recovery between matches. On Friday, Atletico de Kolkata captain Luis Garcia conceded that constant travel and play did cause a strain on preparations. "We have been travelling and practicing then playing relentlessly for two months. If there is one thing the ISL could change is the gap between games," said Garcia.
"The organisers will meet the owners in mid-January next year to review the league," said Knee.
"Extending the league to beyond December is out of question as most players want to be with their families around Christmas," said Knee. "So, to begin the league earlier seems to be the ideal way forward."
The inaugural season of the ISL began on October 12, stretching for over 10 weeks. In the current schedule, teams have to play after every three days. With the new planned schedule, organisers hope to stretch the gap to at least five days.
With the possibility of the Indian national team's World Cup qualifiers in October next year, a mid-season break could also be incorporated, said Knee. "We began the league with the intention to help Indian football grow. We understand how important it is for the national team to be at its strongest in qualifiers. A possible break is also being mooted during this time," he said.
In terms of Indian-foreign players' mix though, not many changes are expected. "There have been suggestions that the ratio of Indian and foreign players should be changed. I feel, next year would be too early for the number of foreign players allowed per match to be decreased," said Knee.
"What I can assure is that the Indian participation per game will not be decreased."
Brazil great Zico has stressed on the need for the ISL to restrict foreign players in the playing XI, so teams could be forced to field more Indian players. Currently, teams are allowed to field six foreigners in a match.