As a result of decades of neglect, Hyderabad football has little to gain from the Indian Super League

A few days ahead of the high-profile Indian Premier League in Dubai, it is the turn of football, Indian Super League, to join this band. The ISL is scheduled to start this September, after the World Cup in Brazil. But, not surprisingly, Hyderabad, once the Mecca of Indian football, will not gain anything by it.

“At the grassroots level, you can’t expect anything dramatic despite big names like Sachin Tendulkar and PVP Ventures (owned by a Hyderabadi Potluri V. Prasad) buying Kochi franchisee,” says former India captain Victor Amalraj.

“These things are definitely good for the established players in States where soccer is more organised, and made a mark at the national and the international levels. They can play with some of the big names in world football,” feels Amalraj.

“The sport has been virtually dead for more than a decade in and around Hyderabad, so how can any franchisee pick any player from here,” counters former India linkman, who was the last of the Hyderabadis to play in the famous three Clubs in Kolkata.

AP Football Association Secretary G. P. Phalguna agrees. “Yes, even as money is being pumped in crores to buy these franchisees, many State Associations might continue to struggle to raise funds even to organise local leagues,” he rues even while mentioning that Vincent Ferrer Foundation (RDT, Anantapur) donated Rs. 3 lakhs towards APFA activities recently.

What can the AFPA hope for from this ISL? “We had already written to the All India Football Federation to allot some of the fixtures suggesting LB Stadium, Gachibowli and Goshamahal Police Stadium as possible venues. We are hopeful. And, apart from getting these matches, I don’t see anything big happening to Hyderabad football in the next one year because of the ISL,” Phalguna explained.

The APFA official has reason for such pessimism: They are struggling to revive the three APFA local leagues — A-Division Rahim League for 16 teams, B-Division Shivkumar Lal for 18 teams and the C-Division for 22 teams affiliated to it.

The Hyderabad Globe Football Club however welcomes ISL. “This will help some of my Club players who made a mark at different All India tournaments winning best players for different positions. Yes, certainly, it would be great if Potluri V. Prasad, spends something to revive football in Hyderabad," feels HGFC Secretary Syed Sadi, whose Club is the only one competing in major tournaments outside AP and winning too.

Potluri V. Prasad, Chairman PVP Ventures, says: “We look forward to developing the Kochi club in the Indian Super League and are proud to partner with one of India’s greatest sportsmen, Sachin Tendulkar, in our efforts. We will tap the potential talent as also channelise the fervour and passion for football across the country to enhance the quality and competitive level of the sport.

The following and enthusiasm of football in the southern part of the country presents a fertile opportunity for us to execute our plans and leverage global expertise for the development of a world class club.”

Explaining the reasons for choosing Kochi, Prasad says, “it’s because we recognised it as the Island of Excellence in football; like we did in badminton when we bought the Hyderabad Hotshots in the Indian Badminton League.” . Will the ISL usher in a new wave of interest amongst other corporates? One should wait and see.