The Indian Super League will kick-off its fourth season on Friday. Accompanied by pomp and ceremony, its primary aim to is elevate the quality of local football in the country.
However, while homegrown players have improved by and large, they have often been eclipsed by a large number of foreign players – most of whom are in the twilight of their careers.
Scoring in particular has been largely dominated by overseas players over the past three seasons. Only four Indians are among the top 20 goal scorers in the short history of the league.
Leading the pack is Iain Hume with 23 goals. The Canadian has found the back of the net six times more than anyone else.
Last season, Hume helped his club Atletico de Kolkata win its second ISL championship. ATK, as the Kolkata team is now known, have won two of three ISL championships. In large part, it’s due to their ability to avoid losses. Of the 50 matches they’ve played, they have only lost 11 times. Their closest competitor, Chennaiyin FC have lost 16 of the 47 games they’ve played.
But by and large, all teams have fared reasonably well. With the addition of two more teams this season, it could make the tournament a little less predictable.
Unsurprisingly, ATK’s gameplay has been supported by some excellent passing from their defensive midfielder, Francisco de Borja, who has nearly 2,400 successful passes in his three seasons.
He is not alone. Among the top ten most frequent passers, four players have at least seven assists. However, not all have the same holding role as Borja. Perhaps a more troubling fact is that only two Indian players have six or more assists since the ISL’s inception.
The lack of Indian players on the scoresheet might have been an issue in the first three editions of the ISL, but that’s likely to change in the fourth. This season, a team needs to have at least 17 Indian players in their squad of 25 and need to have one more player on the field that the earlier edition. In a year, these numbers could well favour domestic players who will invariably have more of a chance to make an impact.