Vita Dani: Hero ISL is a great initiative; has helped Indian football

Chennaiyin FC co-owner Mrs Vita Dani believes that the inception of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) has made a huge difference in changing the landscape of football in the country. Besides providing a platform for talented youngsters to demonstrate their ability, Mrs Dani explained how the league has helped the national team and set up a system to spot gifted players from a young age at different age groups.   

“The ISL has really helped Indian football. I think we have done well as a country (in football since it started). We are promoting young talent. If you look at Chennaiyin, we have U-6, U-13, U-16, U-18, U-21. So, it’s a question of time before we do better at the global level. We are already doing better at the youth level,” Mrs Dani opined in an interview with sportskeeda.

“So, (the Hero ISL) is a great initiative and it’s a matter of time before young talents come to the fore. If you look at Anirudh Thapa, Jerry Lalrinzuala and Lallianzuala Chhangte, these are all young players. When the next crop comes it will make a huge difference to the entire landscape of Indian football,” she added.

She went on to explain how the Hero ISL eventually plans to have longer seasons and pointed at how it’s gone from being a three-month long league to a six-month long one, adding that ‘it’s moving in the right direction’. “We started off with two and a half to three months. We have now grown to five to six months… So, I think our season is slowly expanding and I think that it’s good since it gives continuity to players. They can train for a longer period of time. Audiences can relate to players and I think it’s moving in the right direction,” Mrs Dani said.

The Chennaiyin co-owner also spoke of the importance of keeping faith in players having experienced the full range of emotions in the Hero ISL. From being two-time Hero ISL champions to incredible runs to finals and finishing lowly in the standings, the Marina Machans have seen it all.

“I think it’s important to have faith. You sign them with a certain belief and a certain formation in mind and it has to work and you have to give them some confidence. And they will perform. I joke with my family and friends that after signing them I have to believe in them. It has happened to us year after year that we are not doing well and then (they perform),” Mrs Dani opined.

She continued, “I always back all my players whether they are old, new, young or experienced. We work like a family. I talk to all of them and they can reach out to me. I’m happy to help if they need anything. We have always had that kind of an atmosphere at Chennaiyin. So, it’s like one big happy family. Even if they go somewhere else… once a part of the Chennaiyin family, you will always be a part of it.”

Mrs Dani also stressed the importance of giving local players a chance to showcase their talent and how crucial it is to identify as well as nurture them. “For Chennaiyin we have our scouts based in Tamil Nadu. When we started out, we didn’t have any players but then gradually we got Dhanpal Ganesh, Nallappan Mohanraj and lots of other players. If you look at our U-15 and U-18 teams, it’s mostly local talents. That’s what we really want because I’m sure there’s talent everywhere. It’s only a question of identifying and nurturing them thereafter,” she said.

“It will take a long time but it’s a question of time and we will certainly be there. Some of the young talents have now started going abroad and training. So, we are making a space in the international world (of football) as well,” Mrs Dani added.

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