Kolkata: The Indian Super League (ISL) is being touted as “the best thing that has happened to Indian football”, and most stakeholders are sure that the competition is paving the nation’s path to professionalism in the game. On the eve of a crucial top-of-the-table ISL-2 clash, Brazil legend Zico reminded aspirants about a courtesy or two enshrined in the top levels of the game.
FC Goa's coach Zico
“I think there is a rule, and it says that the hosts should provide us with a good ground to practice,” Zico, the coach of table-toppers FC Goa, said at the very onset of the media interaction at the Salt Lake Stadium. “We couldn’t practice here, at the stadium, and they didn’t provide us with a good alternative either,” he added.
For good measure, the Brazilian World Cupper went on to point out how it is done. “Whenever we receive teams in Goa (in the ISL), we don’t practice at our ground in Fatorda so that the visiting team can use it. The rule gives the guest the right but it was not respected in our case by the Kolkata team. I didn’t want to come to the press conference but did so because of the respect I have for reporters,” he said.
Ironically, ATK themselves are not getting to use the Salt Lake Stadium pitch for practice in this edition of the ISL because of fears that the newly-laid turf would be damaged and would be unfit for match day. Many feel, however, that ATK failed to respect the spirit, if not the rule, by deciding to use the nearby Bidhannager Municipal ground while banishing the visitors to the smaller and inadequate Mohun Bagan ground.
Room for improvement
Be it embracing of rules, facilities for teams and players or standard of officiating, the two editions of the cash-rich ISL has shown that there is room for improvement on almost all fronts. Even as the ISL, with its clutch of world stars, gloats over the glitz and glamour, the All India Football Federation and other stakeholders would do well to pay more attention to the many nity-gritties that combine to usher in true professionalism — in letter and in spirit.