India can be considered as ‘Land of diverse Sports’ where stars are born in every sports played in the country. For cricket, we have Virat Kohli, Sunil Chhetri in football, Rahul Chaudhari in Kabaddi and many more. Although cricket is most popular sports of our country but Football’s increasing popularity among Indians fans cannot be neglected.
Since its inception, Football has reached new heights and to be on interesting note some of the oldest Football clubs originated from India like Calcutta cricket and Football club, East Bengal FC etc. The origin of football in India dates back to mid-nineteenth century. In the early days, football was played only among army teams, but gradually it spread among the masses, thanks to Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari. The Calcutta FC was the first club which was established in 1872. The Indian Football Association was founded in 1893, but none of its board members was Indians.
During 1951-62, which is also considered as ‘Golden Era of Indian Football’, Indian team became the best in Asian continent. After beating Iran in the finals, Indian team won 1951 Asian games. Following this victory, India achieved another milestone in 1952 when they won the Colombo Quadrangular Cup held at Sri Lanka.
However, in spite of achieving some milestone in those years, the status of football as a sports in India started declining. The main reason was the increasing popularity of cricket.
Rebirth of Football as a sports in India
"Cricket was the game of the fathers. Football is the game of the sons," a document promoting the creation of the Indian Super League in 2014 stated
2011 marked as the beginning of new era for Indian Football. For the first time in 27 years, India played in the AFC Asian Cup. Although, India’s performance in the tournament was not up to the expectations but still Indian players took lot of positives from that tournament. Sunil Chhetri was the leading goal scorer for India as he scored the most goals for India in the tournament.
With the introduction of Indian Super league (ISL), Football has witnessed a tremendous growth in Indian sporting market. ISL is a franchise based football competition founded in October 2013, with the goal of growing the sport of football in India and increase its exposure in the country. The first season of the league was played in 2014 and eight teams were the part of that.
Despite the fact that for the first three seasons ISL took place without any official recognition but soon FIFA General Secretary Jérôme Valcke stated that the world governing body recognized the ISL as a tournament, not a league.
Hero MotoCorp got the rights of official title sponsor on July, 2014. The deal is scheduled to last for three-years from 2014 to 2016. However, in 2017 the company extended the rights for another three years.
The first week reportedly drew television audience of 170 million people in total. The league experienced a sharp growth in ratings after the 2016 season with over 216 million viewers on television throughout the entire season. The current scenario proclaims Football to be the third most popular sport to be watched in India.
The upcoming 2019–20 Indian Super League season will be the sixth season of the top Indian football league. The season will begin on 20 October 2019 and conclude in March 2020.
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