Indian Super League vs I-League: What’s the difference?

We are witnessing history for sure. Beyond any doubt, Indian Super League represents the birth of a Footballing nation. As the country hooks into yet another glamorous league, the question that remains is, what will happen India’s top tier football league, the I-League and the clubs affiliated to it?

So, what exactly is I-League?

Long before we know Ronaldo and Messi as the icons of this sport, we had a complete league system in place in India. The top of the league structure is the ‘airtel’ I-League, formerly in its most popular avatar as the ‘ONGC I-League’. It is the Indian version of the British’ Barclays Premier League or Spanish La Liga. It adopts the same structure as them, with multiple tiers called as divisions.

ISL vs I-League

Basically, those two cannot be compared at all. To put in a cricket perspective, ISL is the 2-month glitzy festival like the IPL, while I-League is bigger and longer Ranji Trophy. The only difference is I-League teams are again franchisees unlike the Ranji trophy teams that represent state cricket associations.

Player Selection

The I-League teams (except a few top-tier teams) are mostly composed of local talent of where the club is situated and based on their financial stability, they could get even foreign player to play for them. Wherein ISL, the players are given to different teams via a draft system (similar to how we take teams in Gully cricket), except two teams (more on that coming).

Why not I-League teams in ISL?

ISL is all about popularizing the sport in the country and that needs a lot of money. You need to get big names into the team, pay them, give world class training facilities and all these comes at a cost. But most I-League teams have not yet broke-even (again, except some top-tier clubs). It would not be commercially viable for them to be a part of the ISL. But – two I-League teams are actually part of the Indian Super League. FC Goa is owned by Dempo FC and NorthEast United FC is owned by Shillong Lajong FC. The domestic players for these teams are taken from their respective I-League teams rather than the player draft.

Why not Bangalore?

Initially, there was a team for Bangalore in the ISL, which even participated in the domestic player draft. But due to unspecified reasons, the team pulled back and Chennai was roped in to fill the spot, with the players selected by the Bangalore team moving to Chennai forming the Chennaiyin FC. Interestingly, the I-League team Bangalore FC is the current champions of India’s top tier football.

ISL – Good or Bad for I-League?

The most part of India, doesn’t know what football is all about. ISL is about to change that. And that change will definitely have a positive result on the I-League as well.

So, C’mon India, Let’s Football..

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ESPN Star is changing! What to expect?

Over the past few days, all of ESPNStar network channels (Star Sports, Star Sports 2, ESPN, Star Cricket, ESPN HD and Star Cricket HD) are sporting an animated logo counting down the days for their change. But what is actually up on the cards?

This change, scheduled on November 6, comes at the wake of two important occasions – Sachin Tendulkar’s last test series and Fox Network acquiring ESPN. The first has very little link with the rebranding, but it is definite that ESPN Star wants to make this rebranding  on a bigger day.
There are three different speculations on what will be the change. The first one being the least possible – A tribute to Sachin. Star to rename its 24/7 Cricket channel Star Cricket as Star Sachin! But this is highly unlikely, though one such move will be a fitting tribute to the master blaster.
The second speculation is all about Fox! ESPN and ESPN HD to be renamed as Fox Sports and Fox Sports HD. This is looking convincing but yet there is only a 50-50 chance here. 
And third and final speculation has the best possibility overall. Unification of all brands under a single name. ESPN and Star Cricket might be renamed as Star Sports 3 and Star Sports 4. Similarly their corresponding HD channels will be renamed as Star Sports HD and Star Sports 2 HD.
ESPN Star has made their strong online presence with the name StarSports.com which meant unification was always on the cards. Also having a seperate 24/7 Cricket channel isn’t required (atleast as of now). We have already seen Star Cricket being used for other live broadcasts like the Indian Badminton Legue.
UPDATE: ESPN Star placed in-stadium advertisements in the last ODI of the India – Australia series that read as “Revolutionizing Sports on Nov 6”. Television commercials are also being broadcast under the same tag.

World Series Hockey : Why It Matters?

World Series Hockey (or) WSH, as it is popularly called, is a league type hockey series organised by the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Nimbus Sports, in a country where hockey never got the respect it is supposed to get.  The series was supposed to revive the lost glory of the National Game of India. But it has a lot of hurdles to face.

World Series Hockey

World Series Hockey

The primary concern for this tournament was the fight between the country’s top governing bodies of the sport, The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Hockey India (HI). While the Government of India haven’t clearly stated which of these two will control the future of the game in the nation, the International body for governance of the game, FIH, has clearly mentioned Hockey India as India’s sole controller of Hockey. There arises the problem. Since the tournament is organised by IHF, it was approved neither by Hockey India nor by the FIH. This brings us in relation with the most infamous sporting controversy in the country, the short-lived Indian Cricket League (ICL).

After India’s early exit in the 2007 Cricket World Cup, Zee television network announced of organizing a private Twenty 20 league cricket tournament, almost similar to the WSH. The tournament as expected was not approved by the country’s top cricketing body, the BCCI and virtually by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The players were threatened that if they took part in the league, they will not be picked for the International games. Despite the threatening, it had the likes of many top cricketers of the world such as India’s world cup winning captain Kapil Dev (who also acted as the Chief mentor for the tournament), Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-haq and West Indies’ Brain Lara, to name a few.

Kapil Dev at ICL

Kapil Dev, Chairman of ICL

The league, in fact took off, with its first edition, crowning the “Chennai Super Stars” as champions, was a partial hit. This forced BCCI to announce its own “Indian Premier League” (IPL). The cash-rich BCCI hit the right chords with IPL to make it a multi-billion dollar tournament.

WSH also shares most of the characters with ICL. The Pakistan and Indian Hockey Authorities already announced that the players of WSH will not be allowed to play for the national teams. Even FIH has issued notices citing that the players signed for WSH will be suspended from International matches. But the story of the World Series Hockey cannot be similar. Primarily because, Hockey doesn’t have the craze that cricket has in this nation. Second, Hockey India is not as rich as the BCCI. Even if HI or FIH comes with similar league, as BCCI did, it is difficult to get the sponsors.

The experiment was already done a few years back, when ESPN Star, in association with the Hockey federation started the Premier Hockey League (PHL), which was shut down after 2 seasons, for the lack of sponsors. These private leagues, will however serve for the betterment of Hockey in the country, if it was approved by the sports’ governing bodies. As it was proved time and again, that league based sports are the most attractive form to reach a wide audience.

One interesting difference between ICL and WSH cases are, the salary paid by the ICL and by BCCI are almost the same. So it was easy for players to pick nation over ICL. But the case of WSH is entirely different. Players of WSH are paid multiple times the amount they are getting for playing international games. So players with real talent from poor backgrounds might easily choose WSH over Hockey India. If that happens, it means India is losing its Hockey talent and we could never rise up again in this game.

Since Hockey India is designated as the official authority of Hockey in India, it need not fear about the rise of IHF. Instead, it should go on to recognize the WSH as an official domestic tournament for nothing else than the welfare of Hockey itself. This is the best tonic that could be given for the otherwise dying sport. Let sport be sport and leave the politics aside.