The All India Football Federation's (AIFF) inaugural Super Cup has turned out to be a boon for many I-League clubs who have tested their mettle against their Indian Super League (ISL) counterparts and come out on top in several duels.
However, while the Super Cup has been taken seriously by most of the I-League clubs, the same cannot be said of the teams in the ISL. Before the start of the competition’s qualifiers, there was a debate surrounding the lack of a level playing field for the clubs from both leagues.
There was a proposal that I-League sides be permitted to register six foreigners and play five in the starting XI whereas ISL teams were allowed to have eight in the squad, six in the matchday squad and five in the starting XI. In the end, the AIFF ultimately evened out the playing field, permitting all teams in the fray to register only six overseas players.
They might have very well left the figure at eight for the ISL teams, for it wouldn’t really have made much of a difference.
The attitude of many of the ISL clubs and their respective coaches towards the knock-out cup competition put together hastily by the AIFF has been one of apathy.
Jamshedpur FC head coach Steve Coppell has outright called it a ‘nonsense’ trophy while his Chennaiyin FC’s title-winning counterpart has said that his side has another name for it! Pune City’s Ranko Popovic mentioned how he would have had liked to have the Super Cup to start immediately after the culmination of the ISL, rather than two weeks later.
What importance the ISL outfits are attaching to the Super Cup can be seen in the numbers of overseas recruits registered by the sides for the tournament. Out of the eight ISL teams left in the competition, four teams have registered less than the full quota of six foreigners.
Of these four sides, two teams – Chennaiyin and Pune City – all finished in the top-four of the competition.
Only four teams have submitted their full quota of six players – FC Goa, Jamshedpur FC, Bengaluru FC and ATK. Perhaps there is a correlation between the sides who have had a fruitful season in the ISL to the ones showing indifference to the Super Cup. Or maybe it is just a coincidence.
What is not a coincidence, however, is that AIFF’s latest baby does not have many takers in the ISL half of the pond. Introduced in a disjointed manner in the middle of the season, the Super Cup has been a hindrance for many sides.
South American players have a chance of signing another contract before the next ISL season, with the transfer windows open in their respective countries. Playing the Super Cup and relinquishing that chance does not make sense for them, especially for a tournament which does not even have an AFC Cup spot attached to it.
Dimitar Berbatov probably departed back on the first plane out of India while Chennaiyin FC skipper Henrique Sereno has returned home too. The latter reportedly did not want to return for the Super Cup despite having a contract with the club.
All in all, it is safe to say that the Super Cup has not been wholeheartedly embraced by most of the ISL sides. The timing of the inaugural competition might not have done the Super Cup any favours with many demanding that it run concurrently with the I-League and the ISL.
Whether that situation changes in future editions remains to be seen, but for now, the Super Cup has been given the cold shoulder by the ISL majority.