KOCHI: When the Indian Super League (ISL) was established in 2014, it borrowed heavily from the likes of A-League, Australia’s domestic football competition that was already a decade old and a proven success. Both the leagues enjoy packed stadiums, passionate fans and exciting football, but the similarities do not end there.
The ISL and A-League both follow the franchise system with the champions decided via playoffs featuring top-placed teams at the end of a regular season. Also, neither of them has a system in place for promotion and relegation. In what will be the first meeting between clubs from the two leagues, Kerala Blasters FC and Melbourne City FC face each other in a pre-season friendly in Kochi this week and the latter’s captain and Australia international Scott Jamieson believes Indian football is moving in the right direction. “ISL matches are shown on television back home and from what I have seen, it’s an exciting league with a passionate following. Each country is different, but in Australia, we are looking to expand the league now. It’s always good to have more teams in your league and that is true for India too and I’m sure it will work because you have plenty of fans here,” said the 29-year-old.
A number of players have plied their trade in the two leagues in recent years — the most famous being Italy great Alessandro Del Piero, who wore the colours of A-League’s Sydney FC and ISL’s Delhi Dynamos. “I have played with Dimas Delgado and know Erik Paartalu (formerly of Melbourne) who have both told me Bengaluru FC are the best in India. We have heard a lot of good things, but the most we have heard is of Blasters’ amazing fans. I’m sure ISL is growing like A-League,” said the left-back.
Melbourne will play another partner club Girona FC of La Liga here on July 28 after facing Blasters on July 24 as part of the Toyota Yaris La Liga World.“It is still pre-season, but City Football Group is about winning trophies and we want to be at our best to challenge when the season begins,” said Jamieson.
Speaking of Australia’s 2018 World Cup campaign, Jamieson said the Socceroos have improved as a squad over the years. “We are at a stage where not progressing from the group is a disappointment. We have some exciting youngsters and the focus should shift to qualifying for 2022 and make it out of the group stages,” said the former Bolton Wanderers youth player.