Kolkata: A day after Indian Super League (ISL) received yet another global recognition with its induction into the prestigious World Leagues Forum (WLF), former England defender Russell Osman said this is just the beginning for the India’s top league and they will go on collecting more accolades on the way.
On Wednesday, ISL became the first league from South Asia and seventh in Asia to join the association of professional football leagues which includes the likes of the Premier League, LaLiga and Bundesliga amongst others.
“When the ISL started in 2014, everybody was hoping it would keep improving every year and the AFC would take notice and start rewarding Indian football for what it is trying to achieve. That has to be backed by the quality of the clubs themselves.
“When you look at the clubs themselves, they have to run their business and compete on the playing field in a professional manner, they have to provide a game that is attractive to the television audience, draw crowds in and get the supporter base up, to show that the whole of Indian football is improving, is developing and worth watching,” Osman told IANS in an interview.
“And I think all the stakeholders, eight clubs originally and now the ten clubs, they all deserve to give themselves a pat on the back. Mrs Nita Ambani, obviously the chairperson of FSDL, Martin Bain, they are all trying to push the business forward as much as they can.
“The right people have had a say in the right things. The Asian Football Confederation, have got to have a good dialogue and when they come back and say, you are doing things right, this is what we need you to do, we will do right by you as well.
“They appear to have worked quite well together. It is an ongoing thing. It is still the ten teams we have in the league and India is a massive country. To be fair, we are just scratching the surface. I believe, year on year, we will carry on collecting more supporters,” said the 61-year old who has played for Ipswich Town, Leicester City, Southampton, Bristol City and Brighton & Hove Albion among other clubs in English football.
“We will keep taking supporters off cricket because kids will be playing football on the streets, they will be playing football in school and there will be more organised football for kids of a younger age.
“The quality of coaching they are getting will always keep improving now because coaches can learn online and the number of coaches have gone up as well. So, they will improve and this will improve the kids as well. It has all the ingredients to make a very good meal.”
Osman, who is now an ISL pundit, also spoke about how the reduction in the number of foreigners from the 2021-22 season will help Indian players but they will have to grab their chances.
“For the benefit of the Indian national team, it’s good. They will get to play more every week.
“Indian players will also have to step up to the mark. Now that the foreigner rule has been relaxed, they have to earn their places. Four foreign players in the team can’t carry the team in every game. Majority of them would be Indian players and they will have to raise the standards to a very high level. This will keep the progress going,” he signed off.