Indian Super League: From goals to controversies, a brief history of the tournament
The Indian Super League will be entering its fourth season with Kerala Blasters taking on ATK in the first match of the new season in Kochi on November 17.Updated: Nov 15, 2017 10:16 IST
The Indian Super League (ISL) has been at the centre of controversy since last year. From the All India Football Federation (AIFF) deciding on running two simultaneous leagues to the lack of big names, the tournament has constantly been in the news. But, football will be the main focus when the new season of the ISL begins on November 17 in Kochi.
ISL began in 2014 with the aim of developing football in India and with eight teams playing each other home and away, the format continued till the 2016 season. Each team played 14 league matches with the top four going into two-legged semi-finals before the winner was decided in a one-off final.
This year, however, two more teams have been added to the mix - Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur City FC, taking the total to 10 teams. Another major change in the league will be its schedule which has now been extended to five months compared to two or three it had been doing in the previous seasons.
The first three seasons of ISL also went by without recognition from Asian Football Confederation (AFC), but that has also changed this year with AFC granting ISL the official recognition. ISL will now get an AFC Cup qualifying spot which was decided by the football association and went to the winners of the Federation Cup. To streamline this, efforts have been made to merge the ISL and I-League.
Plenty has been happening off the pitch but there was also no shortage of action on the pitch over the last three years. In the last three seasons, various World Cup winners, European Championship winners and Champions League winners have plied their trade in the big-money tournament.
The first season of ISL in 2014 saw 129 goals scored in the 61 matches with Atletico de Kolkata defeating Kerala Blasters 1-0 in the final thanks to a last-minute winner from Mohammed Rafique. The second season saw the goal-scoring tally rise to 186 and it was Chennaiyin FC who rode Stiven Mendoza’s brilliant performance to beat FC Goa 3-2 in the final. The third season saw the repeat of the 2014 final as once again as Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters squared off in a tense encounter which once again went in favour of the Kolkata-based side, but this time on penalties.
With a high profile tournament like this, it is almost inevitable that there will be controversies. The biggest one was when FC Goa owners were fined Rs 10 crore and docked 15 points ahead of the second season following an altercation after the 2015 final. The incident also resulted in the arrest of Chennaiyin FC marquee player Elano after their summit clash in Goa. Although the fine was reduced and point penalty scrapped, the owners did pull out of the franchise.
ATK midfielder Borja Fernandez, along with Canadian striker Iain Hume has played the most number of matches in ISL with 46. The honour of most caps for an Indian goes to Kerala Blasters regular Sandesh Jhingan with 41. Hume is also the all time leading scorer in ISL with 23 goals to his name, while the accolade for the top scoring Indian goes to Chennaiyin FC forward Jeje Lalpekhlua with 14.
When it comes to the managers, most of the franchises have seen a lot of changes over the years. Delhi Dynamos, for instance, have had four different managers over the four seasons. Kerala Blasters have also seen their fair share of changes - both interim and permanent. Marco Materazzi and Zico were the longest serving managers for their respective franchises, but both won’t be returning this year.