Indian Super League – Team Roster
Battle lines for the first edition of the Hero Indian Super League has been drawn. The franchisees are ready with their teams. Sachin Panda of Goalden Times previews each team’s personnel and chances in the long run.
The first edition of the Hero Indian Super League will begin on 12th October. The teams have been lined up and most of them have their structures, team set up, stadium and personnel already sorted out. The two-and-a-half-month extravaganza will reach its conclusion on 20th December. Teams will play each other in a two-legged home away format. The top 4 teams will make it to the play offs, which will then decide the finalists.In this first-time League, team formation has to adhere to the following restrictions:
- There has to be at least a 22-member squad comprising one marquee player, seven other foreigners, and 14 Indian domestic players.
- At least five foreigners (except the marquee signing) have to be picked up from the foreign player draft
- At least four of the domestic players should be from the host city of the team
The ISL saw the introduction of the draft system, something used very regularly in the US for teams to pick players. The domestic draft started with Lenny Rodriguez becoming the first-draft pick by the Pune franchise. NorthEast United FC and Goa Blasters chose to opt out of the draft and pick their players from I-League teams. Following the domestic draft was the draft for international players in which 49 international players were drafted into the Indian Super League.The final teams have all been already decided, and each team has its work cut out for it. So, how did the teams fare in the draft? Here we preview each team in terms of their squad, management, marquee players, and their chances of making it to the play-off spots.
Team: Kerala Blasters
Manager: David James
Stadium : Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi (75,000)
Kerala Blasters, owned by cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, started with quite a perplexing decision. The appointment of ex-England international goalkeeper David James, who, besides featuring in FIFA WC 2010, also has almost 24 years of experience playing for top English clubs, was received with a great deal of enthusiasm in the football-crazy state of Kerala. What was baffling, though,was the announcement that David James would act as the player-manager for the club. The decision was particularly interesting because of two reasons. One, James has never had any managerial experience before. Two, Trevor James Morgan, the hugely popular former coach of East Bengal, a giant of Indian football, had been hired as the “assistant manager”. Morgan is loved by football enthusiasts across India because of the attacking playing style of his team, East Bengal. Morgan as the manager of the franchisee would have made much more sense. As a team, though, Kerala Blasters arguably have the strongest line up in the ISL. Having already signed marquee player David James, the franchise grabbed midfield marshall, Mehtab Hossain, and the immensely experienced goalkeeper, Sandip Nandy in the domestic players draft. Along with forwards CS Sabeeth and former Newcastle man, Michael Chopra, who were picked in the international player draft, the is set to have an extremely experienced set of core players. The players picked in the international draft also include former Auxerre right back, Cédric Hengbart, and Leicester City forward, Iain Hume. Defenders like Nirmal Chettri and Gurwinder Singh are also expected to provide the much needed steel to the backline. With the domestic experience of assistant coach Trevor James Morgan, Kerala Blasters look almost certain to reach the playoffs, if not the finals.
Marquee Player : David James
During his time in England, David James was known to be a maverick goalkeeper. On one hand, the keeper has made some of the most stunning saves the English Premier League has seen.On the other hand, however, he has made his fair share of calamitous errors (earning him the nickname “calamity” James). At 44, David James is at the bottom of the bell curve of his powers. With the relatively younger Sandip Nandy in the squad, James will not feature in most of the games. The added responsibility of manager also fosters this belief. But with his experience of playing in one of the most competitive leagues and top tournaments of the world, he should be able to guide his already experienced team to the play-off spots.
Team : Atletico de Kolkata
Manger : Antonio Lopez Habas
Stadium : Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata (120,000)
Atletico de Kolkata were the early birds in terms of market activity. Their alliance with La Liga champions, Atletico Madrid, allowed them to get in the market much before other teams. This was true not only for players but also for the coaching and support staff. The team also has the highest stadium capacity in India as well asextremely passionate and knowledgeable supporters. Based in the spiritual home of football in India, Kolkata,and owned in part by the cricket legend Sourav Ganguly, the franchise started off by signing the first marquee player of the ISL—former Liverpool midfielder Luis Garcia. They followed it up with some very smart signings in the domestic and international players draft. Defenders like Arnab Mondal and Kingshuk Debnath, and midfielders like Cavin Lobo, Sanju Pradhan, and Climax Lawrence come with a vast amount of domestic experience. Add to that forwards like Baljit Sahni, and the club looks extremely promising on paper. Another key signing for the club is that of the steely defensive midfielder, Borja Fernandez. Having played in La Liga for clubs like Real Madrid Real Valladolid and RCD Mallorca, Fernandez may turn out to be a fantastic buy, providing the club with much-needed stability in the midfield. Completing the Spanish flavor at the club is head coach, Antonio Lopez Habas. Habas’ managerial career spans more than 20 years, mostly in Spain, and he could add his characteristic Spanish flair to the playing style of the club. With an experienced coach and one of the most impressive teams, which includes the likes of Apoula Edel (former PSG goalkeeper), Sylvian Monsoreu (former Monaco and Lyon defender), Josemi (former Malaga, RCD Mallorca and Liverpool defender), Jofre Mateu (former Levante and Rayo Vallecano midfielder), Club Atletico de Kolkata could be a fixture in the play-off spots.
Marquee Player : Luis Garcia
Garcia, a prolific scorer for the Barcelona youth and B team, made his name in Europe with Liverpool, where he spent 3 glorious seasons and was known for his technical prowess as a winger. Garcia has scored some of the most important goals in Liverpool’s history of the last decade. The goals against Juventus and Chelsea in the build up to the Champions League final of 2005 (a competition they won), the one against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi final, and the injury-time goals against CSKA Moscow in 2005 UEFA Super cup will live long in the memories of the Kop attendants. Garcia’s pace and ferocious shot from a distance may spark magic and Kolkata’s football faithful are all hoping to see fireworks from him on the pitch.
Team : FC Pune City
Manager : Franco Colomba
Stadium : Shree Shiv Chatrapati Sports Complex, Pune (22,000)
Owned by Bollywood heartthrob Salman Khan and based in the cosmopolitan city of Pune, FC Pune City started modestly in the market and were almost silent on the front of their marquee player. But their patience reaped its own reward as they tied down former Juventus and France marksman David Trezeguet as their marquee signing. However, the quality of the marquee player was not matched by their picks in both the domestic and international players’ draft. Some of their notable draft picks are midfielder Lenny Rodriguez, Indian forward Joaquim Abranches, former Juventus goalkeeper Emanuele Belardi, and former Internazionale and AEK Athens center back, Bruno Cirillo—the first ever foreign player picked up in the Foreign players’ draft in ISL history. The club has a definite Italian tint to it, and they have fostered it by signing a strategic partnership with Italian giants ACF Fiorentina , who also own a 15% stake in the franchise. They have also appointed Franco Colomba of Italy, who has managed a lot of clubs in Italian Serie A, as the head coach. The support staff also has a certain Italian flavour to it, with almost all of the backroom team consisting of Italian coaches. However, even with all these signings, the team lacks a certain edge that would be needed to qualify for the play offs.
Marquee Player: David Trezeguet
David Trezeguet is one of those marquee players who can attract crowds to the stadium by the power of his stardom. Trezeguet has had an illustrious career, both with club and country. With Juventus, Trezeguet has scored more than a 100 goals and won numerous trophies and accolades. At the national level, he had a fruitful career in which he scored 34 goals (in 71 apps) including the golden goal in the UEFA Euro 2000 against Italy. He also got the FIFA World cup medal in France’98. He had to endure the pain of missing a spot kick in the final against Italy, an action that led to France losing out on its second World Cup crown in 2006 . With his glorious résumé, Trezeguet will certainly be one of the most fearsome strikers in the ISL. The crucial question, however, is whether he can motivate a rather ordinary team to the play-off spots on his own.
Team : Mumbai City FC
Manager : TBA
Stadium : DY Patil Stadium, Mumbai (55,000)
Located 120 km from Pune is India’s financial capital, Mumbai. The city hosts another of ISL’s franchisees and FC Pune City’s derby rivals, Mumbai City FC. Owned by another Indian heartthrob, Ranbir Kapoor, the club will play its home games in the recently-built DY Patil stadium. Much like Pune City FC, the team started slowly in the market and had to wait very late to capture their marquee player. However, they did well to capture German international Manuel Friedrich as their superstar. The team acted smartly in the domestic players draft and picked up players like the vastly experienced Indian goalkeeper, Subrata Paul, and teenage sensation, Lalrindika Ralte. Add to that their speedy winger Ram Malik and steely defender and Indian national team player, Syed Rahim Nabi. Mumbai City FC have certainly assembled a very talented team and, in stark contrast to other teams, they have a relatively youthful and inexperienced squad, making sure of exuberance and energy on the pitch. What is worrisome, though, is that the club has not yet appointed a head coach—a decision that could be detrimental to the players given that the start of the League is just around the corner.
Marquee Player: Manuel Freidrich
German International, Manuel Freidrich, played 11 games last season for Borussia Dortmund and scored one goal against his former club, Werder Bremen. Freidrich is a very strong defender with a knack for goals. The one key difference between the other marquee signings and Freidrich is that the latter has spent the last season playing top-tier football with a highly competitive squad. He is also relatively younger than the other marquee players and has played in competitive tournaments like the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League as late as last year. With his years of experience in German football, Freidrich is expected to be able to guide the mix of talented and experienced players around him to reach the play-offs. However, the appointment of a head coach at the earliest is still a key aspect deciding how the club fares on the pitch.
Team : Delhi Dynamos
Manager : Harm van Veldhoven
Stadium : Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi (60,000)
Delhli Dynamos have easily made the best coup in the ISL. Alessandro del Piero is considered to be one of the best players ever to have graced Italian football. To have a player of his calibre and stature play in front of the Indian audience is quite surreal for the average football fan. The draft picks for the this team was also very interesting. Having failed to capture notable players in the domestic draft except Naoba Singh and Steven Dias, the team management got some really good players in the international draft. Delhi Dynamos is owned by DEN Networks, one of India’s leading cable TV distribution companieswith a reach over 11 million households across key states and cities. The team has also formed an alliance with renowned Dutch club Feyenoord. And that Dutch influence is clear in their International picks. Danish forwards Mads Junker, who scored 20 goals in Eredivisie in 2010–11 under his now-manager van Veldehoven, and Morten Skuobo bring with themselves a lot of top-tier football experience in Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Spain. The other key signing for the Dynamos is the 30-year-old Indian national team mainstay, Steven Dias. The Dynamos have appointed the 51-year-old, former Brussels boss, Harm van Veldhoven as their coach. Veldhoven has a reputation in Belgium as a progressive coach after achieving promotion with two different clubs. As Roda coach, he also guided the Eredivisie side from the brink of relegation to finishes as high as 6th in the 2010–11 season.
Marquee Player: Alessandro Del Piero
There would be very few modern day players who will not be envious of Del Piero’s CV. As a player, he has played in and won all the major trophies that are there to be won—Serie A, Coppa Italia, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and Intercontinental Cup. The only trophy to elude his otherwise envious cabinet is the UEFA Euro cup, where he finished runners up in 2000. Interestingly, he was just five minutes away from winning the tournament, only to be thwarted by a late goal by Slyvian Wiltord, which was followed by an injury time winner by his now ISL rival, David Trezeguet. Who would have thought that these two top European competitors will again lock horns at the fag end of their careers in the far land of India? Having a player like him play in the team should serve as the biggest motivation for the players. Del Piero, who last played for Sydney FC, has the potential to lead the team to individual glory on the back of his own performance.
Team : NorthEast United FC
Manager : Ricki Herbert
Stadium : Indira Gandhi Atheletic Stadium, Guwahati (35,000)
The Guwahati-based club encapsulates in its name a region that is simply blessed with the best football talents in India. The North Eastern part of India is also home to some of the most passionate football supporters, hoping that their team does justice to their vigor. Owned partly by Bollywood actor John Abraham and Shillong Lajong FC, another club that plays in the I-League, the North Eastern outfit has a rather timid squad, at least on paper. The club started brightly by signing former Spain left back, Joan Capdevilla. However, the quality of the marquee signing was not matched by the players drafted from the international or domestic picks. Most of the players have been signed in directly from the parent club Shillong Lajong. However, this strategy could also have a positive aspect to it. Having played most of the season together in the I-League, the players have a remarkable understanding on the pitch, as was evident by Lajong’s display in the I-League last year. Striker Glen Cornell , who was part of the Trinidad and Tobago World Cup squad in 2006, has done exceedingly well for Lajong in the I-League and NorthEast United FC would be hoping for his form to continue to the ISL as well.
Marquee Player: Joan Capdevilla
As a left back, Joan Capdevilla was known for his marauding runs on the wings and his wicked shot. He has had a glorious club career.His underachieving national team career was turned into a illustrious one with the arrival of coach Luis Aragones, who guided Spain to a UEFA Euro cup triumph in the year 2008. Capdevilla also won the FIFA World Cup in the year 2010. With a vast amount of experience in top-flight football, he is the ideal man to lead NorthEast United FC.
Team: FC Goa
Stadium: Fatorda Stadium, Margao (24,000)
The Goan outfit, owned by industrialists Venugopal Dhoot, Dattaraj Salgaocar, and Shrinivas Dempo, who are also involved in I-League teams Salgaocar and Dempo, have adopted a model that is similar to that of NorthEast United FC. The team players have been picked up directly from Dempo. Salgaocar and Dempo are hugely successful in the I-League and their players are expected to bring the spirit of winning with them. Clifford Miranda, Rowilson Rodriguez, Pranoy Halder, Alwyn George, Romeo Fernandes are all part of Dempo, and have played alongside each other for the last two seasons. Hence, team chemistry should not be a problem for the club. In the international drafts, the team has added to its ranks players like Miroslav Slepicka, who had decent spells with clubs like Sparta Prague and Dynamo Zagreb, and defender, Gregory Arnolin, who played for four seasons with Sporting Gijon. The areas that have been neglected are the key appointments of marquee player and coaching staff, which still continues to evade them. Though names as high profile as Steve Clarke—former manager of English Premier League team West Bromwich Albion— were floating around, it would not be surprising if the management approaches current Dempo gaffer, Arthur Papas, to become the head coach. With the start of the League being just around the corner, the management should resolve these key areas as soon as possible for the team to be able to put in a steady challenge.
Team: Chennai Titans
Stadium: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai (40,000)
Chennai Titans were the last-minute entrants to ISL after a feud between the organizers and the Bengaluru franchise led to the latter pulling out of the League. The Titans, owned by Indian movie star, Abhishek Bachchan, and ace producer, Ronnie Screwvala, would probably have benefited from the smart moves team Bengaluru made in the domestic draft. The latter had already tied up a strategic alliance with Italian club Internazionale. The club boastsof experienced goalkeeper Shilton Paul, defender Gouramangi Singh, midfielders Harmanjot Khabra and Denson Devadas, and forward Jeje Lalpekhlua in its ranks. In the international drafts, the team picked up some great players in the forms of former Nancy defender Gennaro Bracigliano, ex-PSG wing back Bernard Mendy, and attacking midfielder Cristian Hidalgo Gonzlez, who once played for the Barcelona B team before moving to Hercules and Elche. With a proper mix of domestic and international players, the team looks set to mount a stern challenge for the play-off spots. The fans might have been left frustrated by the teams initial complacence to sign a marquee player but they were rewarded handsomely after it came to light that former twice World player of the year, Ronaldinho has signed for the team. The only key decision left is the appointment of a manager and its support staff. The fans, already excited about the prospect of watching a global superstar, can also be enlivened at the team’s chances in the league the sooner the decision is made.
Marquee Player : Ronaldinho
Ronaldinho shot to limelight with his magical free kick that left England keeper David Seaman embarrassed at the biggest stage of world football. There was no looking back since. Ronaldinho spent 5 seasons with Barcelona where he captured the imagination of fans across the globe in a way that very few players have managed to do. His inventiveness, be it the no-look passes or the elastica move, dazzled even his rivals, as was evident in El Classicos where the Real Madrid fans often applauded his craft. Football fans in India thought things could not be any better after it was announced that Alessandro Del Piero was signed by the Delhi franchisee. But the Ronaldinho signing is one that no one in their wildest dreams would have imagined. As for the players, if there was any need for motivation, then it has just been served to them on a platter for to play alongside Ronaldinho (or against) is an opportunity that comes but once in a lifetime. This is surely the headline of ISL season one.
We have previously analysed ISL’s impact on Indian football in depth, and have discussed the state of affairs that have followed the inception of the League. There is an obvious question mark over the quality of the League as most of the foreign recruits are almost at the fag end of their careers. ISL, in order in impact football in a more substantial way, should look at attracting current players. There is a clear problem of players under contract at different clubs and efforts need to be made towards resolving it. But no matter what the impact, there is no denying the fact that the League, with a host of foreign and domestic stars, is bound to generate a lot of fan fare in the country. Which team finally takes home the championship will be decided later, but the average fan can not help but feel excited about what’s in store over the next few months.