That the interest was there is beyond question now. You need only look at some of the figures behind the ISL’s success. The average attendance is 24,357, which is lower only than the Bundesliga, the Premier League and La Liga. It’s worth repeating: it is the fourth biggest league in the world. Bigger than France, than Italy, than Brazil, than Argentina and China – countries that have an established football tradition, and the only one that has more people…
It was a fitting climax to a wildly unpredictable first season jusr about a month ago. A goal by Mohammed Rafique in the dying seconds of the final won the Indian Super League title for Atlético de Kolkata in what is now the fourth highest attended league in the world. None of that would have made sense a few months ago. As if to add to the sporting state of flux in the country, two of its most favourite sons from its most favourite sport had a hand in the proceedings. Atlético, co-owned by cricket’s Sourav Ganguly, had beaten Kerala Blasters, co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar. Great friends on and off the field, they were filmed hugging and joking even after the result.
Bollywood celebrities mingled with the players as the 37,000-odd crowd cheered and clapped at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai. It was, all in all, a tremendously sporting day in India – in every sense. It would be just as accurate to describe the crowd as an audience – the majority were neutrals, there for the closing ceremony, the lasers and fireworks, the western fast-food brands and to spot their favourite actor in the VIP seats. Plus, of course, because they love football – they just never had a chance to show how much within a safe, family environment.
Everything that so many fans in Europe, especially England, decry as ruining the game has seemingly enriched it in India. There is a difference between a seemingly endless passion being mined for profit by greedy executives and soulless corporations, and the attempt here to rejuvenate a dormant love for a game marginalised by its flashier cousin, using whatever means necessary to improve the experience. That the interest was there is beyond question now. You need only look at some of the figures behind the ISL’s success. The average attendance is 24,357, which is lower only than the Bundesliga, the Premier League and La Liga. It’s worth repeating: it is the fourth biggest league in the world. Bigger thanFrance, than Italy, than Brazil, than Argentina and China – countries that have an established football tradition, and the only one that has more people.
The opening game drew 65,000 supporters to Atlético de Kolkata’s ground, the Salt Lake Stadium, for the match against Mumbai City. That game was also watched on TV by 74.7m, and the league as a whole had ratings of 170.6m in the first week. The figures for the first phase of this year’s Indian Premier League cricket was 184m. Embracing the modern sport fan’s need for constant interaction, organisers went large on digital media too. The ISL site had 16m online video views through the course of the tournament. Its online channel registered 28.7m visits. On social media it recorded more than 1.8m conversations on Twitter and Facebook, 10bn page impressions and 275,000 registered members. The semi-final between Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters attracted 1.1m online video views – the highest in India for a single sporting event.
The Twitter hashtags #ISLfie, #letsfootball and, a personal favourite, #fatafatifootball (an approximate translation would be “zippy-zappy football”) trended on matchdays and beyond.
– The Guardian