A league full of surprises!
We all know how some leagues around the world are very competitive, like the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga and the Italian Serie A are, but it is still fairly easy to predict who will be at the top end of the table come the end of the season.
In that respect the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) is very much on the opposite end of the spectrum. There have been some really surprising results in the ISL so far, and it’s really hard to predict what the results are going to be at the end of the game. You look at some results and go, like wow, didn’t see that coming!
Let’s take Goa, for example, they were exceptional in the way they dragged their team to victory. There was a point where against Delhi they looked like they were going to lose, but they got a goal back and then they went on to win the game.
You look around the league and you see teams like Atlético de Kolkata, who are very disciplined, very strong and they look a threat every time they go forward. Suddenly, boom! A result against them by FC Pune City, nobody saw that coming!
Or take NorthEast United FC when they played against Chennaiyin FC; they went a goal down, no surprises, since it was an Elano goal -- the only difference is that this time it was a goal from open play. They went behind again but they came back to get a point and could have easily sneaked in a victory. That for me takes character! You can have all the best footballers in the world but if your players don’t have that character, the team does not have a unity and that result does not happen, and that is integral to teams’ chances in this league.
There are a lot of results right now that surprise us, and I like that, because it means that this league is not predictable and there is competition. If I was following the ISL and I went on watching it into mid-November and I already knew who the top four teams are, then I would just have to watch exhibition games till the playoffs. That does not happen and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, it’s competitive, and this is what we gauge leagues around the world upon. Although there are games coming in thick and fast for a lot of teams, there is a determining factor that plays on the minds of the coaches, and that is substitutions. If you are fatigued during the course of the game, your concentration levels will invariably drop. Along with that you have to deal with the added pressure of the heat and humidity. Because of the weather in India, a lot of players start getting fatigued quicker and get dehydrated sooner too. If you notice the pace of the game in the first 60 minutes, it’s always played at a much quicker pace and it kind of trails off towards the end. This is why you are seeing a lot of substitutions that are being made around the hour mark as teams try to freshen things up. You wouldn’t necessarily see that in places that have a different climate, you would usually see subs coming on around the 75th or 80th minute.
That is what makes this league so interesting because a lot of factors come into play when you are looking at teams and the results that they are getting, and you can bet form is not one of them.
(Hero ISL commentator Gary O’Reilly is a former Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace defender. He represented both Ireland and England as a schoolboy.)