With Bengaluru FC and East Bengal FC set to clash in the final of the Super Cup on Friday, we caught up with renowned commentator and expert of Indian Football Novy Kapadia ahead of the season finale, asking him about the ongoing knockout tournament.
Super Cup’s Scheduling
The Super Cup has attracted significant criticism since the competition was announced back in February. From the tournament’s scheduling, to the selection of venue, and even the kick-off timings have been slammed by several coaches and football enthusiasts.
The AIFF picked Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar – one of the hottest places in the country during summer as hosts of the inaugural edition. Furthermore, apart from a few qualifier fixtures between the bottom I-League and ISL sides, which were held at 8pm, matches were held at 4pm.
This is one aspect (apart from the many) that has irked football followers the most. Novy Kapadia echoed these sentiments, slating the organisers of being unsympathetic towards the players and the venue selection a ‘disaster’.
In addition, the tournament being scheduled post the completion of the ISL has resulted in teams playing without some of their foreign players. With the ISL being a four month competition, contracts were offered to overseas players accordingly. Teams like Chennaiyin FC have lost out on some of their best players as a result. And players available were exhausted from playing their respective competitions and suddenly found themselves thrust into the heat of a knockout tournament.
I-League teams outperforming ISL sides
The Super Cup was supposedly the ‘Civil War’ of Indian Football. The best of both worlds – the I-League and Indian Super League sides battling it out for the title of the best side in the country. While that was the premise, the hidden subtext for the tournament was determining the more superior league.
However, the results coming into the quarterfinals have gone against the big money franchises of the ISL. From the eight sides that made it through, five of them were from the I-League – East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Neroca FC, Aizawl FC and Shillong Lajong. The other three were ISL sides Bengaluru FC, FC Goa and Jamshedpur FC. But among those three, Bengaluru FC made the switch to ISL less than a year ago.
Novy Kapadia points out to the concept of relegation in the I-League being a key factor for their success – with teams having to grind out results in order to stay in the first division. An aspect which is non-existent in the ISL. Teams that face huge repercussions due to a drop down to the lower division and the motivation to avoid such an occurrence results in sides having a bigger drive.
Despite the scheduling and venue of the competition, some sides have managed to produce good football in the competition. Bengaluru FC continued their ISL form and have marched towards the final with a 4-2 trashing of Mohun Bagan despite being a man down. On the other hand, East Bengal, who narrowly missed out on winning the I-League, overcame FC Goa thanks to a Dudu tap-in, and will be keen to win national silverware for the first time in six years.