India: A New Age Of Soccer
February 2, 2012 1 Comment
By: Kiran Balan
Soccer is the world’s sport. It has the ability to unite and create opportunities for anyone and everyone who has the determination and desire to succeed. It is with this thinking that India has developed a soccer league called the Premier Soccer League. The main goal of this large project is to raise awareness of the soccer in the region and to build on the recent soccer frenzy that hit the country in recent months. The new league will be a welcomed breath of fresh air to a country that is cricket crazy. With the Indian national soccer team ranked at a dismal 158th in the world according to FIFA’s current rankings. The league will begin in the Indian state of West Bengal and based on the popularity of the league, could spread to other states in India. It is believed to have a similar structure as Major League Soccer in North America and of the competitive I-League in India.
So far only 5 teams have signed contracts with India based companies and a 6th team is still trying to work a deal to be able to play before the league commences with their season, although they were not a part of the bidding process. This is the first time that India will have a league that appeals to some of the world’s greatest players back in the day. The league owners and club managers hope this is a start to making India a strong soccer market, comparable to the success of soccer in Korea and Japan. The hope is to make the Premier Soccer League a lasting league for years to come, and to attract more foreign players.
The “league” will officially kick off on February 25th 2012, and only last for 7 weeks, which is very short for league that boast a strong contingent of former European soccer superstars. Similar to the Designated Player system MLS has adopted the PSL has one “icon” player, a marquee player if you will. The five teams involved in the league started the bidding process to sign their one icon player. This system of signing a player vaguely, if at all resembles how the European and North American transfer market does their respective business.
The two players that had the highest bids for their services were World Cup winner and Italian legend Fabio Cannavaro and Argentine legend Hernan Crespo; although Crespo is yet to formally agree to a move to the Premier Soccer League. The bids were $830,000 and $840,000 respectively (see link below). The lure of money and new market is what is helping stimulate an overall player interest. For a seven weeks, overseas players will make a lot of money in a very short amount of time. Overseas players such as American Santino Quaranta will make $180,000 in seven weeks, which is a step up from making the same amount of money with MLS, which is a six month league in itself, and a format similar to MLS, I would not be surprised if players from North American came and participated in a league such as this.
One worrying aspect of the league is that there has been a lack of media coverage to help promote the league and skill set of the players involved. Without active media coverage, the league could go into total anonymity. It should be the responsibility of club and league owners to find a reputable and respectable source of media, because with that not only are they able to spread the excitement of this project, but businesses in India will grow at a faster rate and generate even more revenue which can only help the league as a whole in the long run.
Overall the idea of having a league of former stars taking part in a mini league in India can only be a positive step forward with Indian soccer. With the likes of Leo Messi and Bayern Munich playing friendly matches in India; shows the intent and willingness to compete with the world in the world’s match. With a nation of over one billion people, the growth for soccer is undeniable and with that the support for the national team will also increase, and hopefully in the next 15 years India could earn a trip to the World Cup, which would be one exciting prospect to watch for any and every soccer player.