Unfair to expect rise of ISL overnight, says former England Captain Alan Shearer

Mumbai: Former England striker and Newcastle giant Alan Shearer feels that it is unfair to expect the Indian Super League to produce results straight away and there should be no comparison with the world’s most-watched sports event - the English Premier League.

The EPL now has a television viewership of over 4.5 billion people as per the latest figures.

But according to Shearer, it takes time for any league to develop its own course and adjust after seeing what’s going right for the league.

“When Premier League started back in 1992, it was very similar. ISL right now is in its infant stage, you can’t expect it to hit the heights straight away. You have to start off and see what’s going right for your league and improve plans accordingly. My experience of ISL and Indian football is that every time I get here, I see the quality go up!”

The ISL currently allows 25 players in a squad with seven foreign players (maximum) and three developmental players (below age 21) being mandatory. There have been arguments over getting in more foreign players into the ISL structure to boost viewership with better quality. But England's 1998 World Cup captain, who is also the Premier League’s ambassador, said it is difficult in the current phase to identify how many foreign players should be allowed in ISL while saying the talent influx from abroad certainly helped EPL become what it is today in the same breath.

“There’s no doubt that the Premier League has benefitted from having foreign players -- off and on the pitch. It has had incredibly talented players in Eric Cantona, David de Gea, Gianfranco Zola, Thierry Henry, et al. These players have been huge in helping the EPL grow. So there’s definitely place for foreign players."

Currently, three Under-14 teams from EPL -- Chelsea, Manchester United and Southampton are rubbing shoulders with Under-15 sides of Reliance Foundation Young Champs, FC Goa and Bengaluru FC at Reliance Corporate Park Football Ground, Ghansoli in Navi Mumbai.

The initiative, named as PL-ISL Next Generation Mumbai Cup, is part of a long-term programme planned by both the leagues to exchange knowledge and get players acclimatized to different conditions.

“That’s the plan -- to help kids gain experience. Not only on the pitch but for three clubs to come to India as Under-14s, representing their country and culture, will be absolutely priceless going forward. As for India, to be able to pick up the brains of English coaches is also going to be valuable."

The 49-year-old stressed on the point that for Indian football to grow, persistence will be the necessary and an absolute key to success.

“They need to continue what they are doing. This is the only way to help the reach of football culture and clubs. They can’t all of a sudden become world-beaters. It takes time to improve and get there. The more ISL can be involved with Premier League, which is the case, more it will benefit everyone,” he said.

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