Wednesday , February 1 2023

Does the Super Cup have a future in Indian club football?

The final of the second edition of the Super Cup was played last night at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar with FC Goa beating Chennaiyin FC 2-1 to lift their first piece of silverware.

And I have to be honest. Last year when the Super Cup was announced as the first competition in which Indian Super League and I-League clubs would contest each other in a knockout tournament on the field, I thought it was a brilliant idea and a step in the right direction.

But just one year on, I fear the Super Cup has not kept its initial promise, which has sadly happened due to numerous and diverse reasons. And therefore the Super Cup might not have a future in the Indian club football calendar, independent of what happens with Indian club football in general.

If one looks into the reasons, then the first issue what comes up is what do the clubs play for in the Super Cup? Due to the I-League getting an AFC Champions League qualifier spot and the Indian Super League an AFC Cup spot, the Super Cup is being played for only the trophy and the lowly prize money.

Then there is the scheduling. After a long and gruelling Indian club football season, the Super Cup comes as an additional burden for the clubs. Last season ahead of the first edition the ISL clubs didn’t seem to be too interested to play the Super Cup with some isl franchises releasing some of their foreigners to save costs.

This season with the I-League clubs up in arms against the AIFF and FSDL (Football Sports Development Limited), most of them decided not to take part which hit the Super Cup 2019 hard despite featuring some interesting matches.

And then there is the venue of Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. I fully understand that the AIFF has a partner in the state of Odisha, who are supporting the federation and Indian football in general, but despite having a quality venue, Odisha still has to do a lot to fill stadiums like other parts of India. And then there is the added heat factor at this time of year down there.

To quickly summarise, for me the Super Cup is somewhat dead and it would make more sense to revive the old Federation Cup and ensure that the winner of the Federation Cup gets to play in continental Asian competition besides spreading the tournament out to include clubs outside of the Indian Super League and I-League clubs in Second Division League sides besides regional and local league champions.

This had been successfully been done for the first-time in 1998, when the Fed Cup was expanded to a mammoth tournament, then repeated a few times over the last three decades though I know due to cost constraints and other factors, the AIFF preferred a one venue competition at the start or end of the season.

Lets see what happens…

About Arunava Chaudhuri

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