Football

Indian Super League has learnt from mistakes of MLS

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It may not have World Cup stadia to call upon, but the Indian Super League is doing its utmost to top the stuttered start that Major League Soccer made 18 years ago.

Football originally struggled in the United States, with new fans refusing adopt the sport, and purists dismissing its Americanization, but now IMG-Reliance are looking to take the MLS' best bits and plant the beautiful game in India.

Wisely, IFAB rules have been immediately instituted, unlike the delay that saw the likes of Carlos Valderrama and Alexi Lalas play for many seasons with shoot-outs and countdown clocks in North America.

Marquee players are also in from the get-go. While it wasn't until 2007's "David Beckham Rule" that saw Designated Players come to the MLS, Alessandro del Piero, Luis Garcia, Nicolas Anelka and Robert Pires are already a part of the ISL - with six Champions League winners and five World Cup victors in all.

Equally, the States' elite division has set a precedent for the accepted standard of social media interaction and online presence. The MLS still boasts one of the best sports websites in the world, but their Indian counterparts have made an impressive start.

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Room For Improvement

Though the ISL's progress has been fast-tracked in the hope of attracting top stars from the outset - with pursuits of Del Piero and Joan Capdevila successful - there is still room for improvement.

Ructions with the previously-established I-League continue to hamper the development of Indian football, while a lack of prestige has ensured a gulf in quality between the ageing recruits and the local players.

Encouraging

Early form has suggested that those clubs with key men who have influenced games at the highest level, as David James' Kerala Blasters struggle with Football League ex-pats Michael Chopra, Iain Hume and Stephen Pearson.

Encouragingly, some of the game's more unknown characters are also making names for themselves, including the particularly prominent Ethiopian forward Fikru Teferra - who has already tested himself against the likes of Manuel Friedrich and Capdevila.

All leagues must start somewhere, and IMG still have an almighty task ahead of them, but there are certainly more positives than negatives to take from the opening fortnight of the latest franchise-driven competition.

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