The Indian Super League (ISL) is back! And that brings with it another season of the ISL musings: and matchday 1 has already seen plenty of drama, goals and everything in between.
Parthib Gogoi wondergoal
A touch to control the ball around 40 yards from goal. Another to nutmeg a charging Rahul Bheke. A third to drag it, and him, forward and a fourth to get it out of his feet. Once clear at the edge of the box, a fifth to curl a magnificent shot into the far bottom corner. Already a contender for goal of the season, and it was all Gogoi magic.
- Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) September 25, 2023
The young man's confidence - and technical brilliance - on the ball speaks well to the present, and possibly future, of a club that's been lurching from one crisis to another ever since it came into being. That they lost this match means little, it's Mumbai City and that's what Mumbai City do in the league.
Bengaluru FC win a freekick in the Kerala Blasters half. Javi Hernandez keeps the ball down and cocks his left foot. Having essentially owned up to the mistake of moving away from Sunil Chhetri last season, Adrian Luna refuses to move an inch, and then:
- Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) September 22, 2023
The laughter from the players, the roar from the crowd, the smiling ref pointing at his whistle. Perfect.
P.S. The match itself alternated between two very good teams battling it out to an absolute mess of a local game played on an abandoned paddy field but Blasters will be happy with the three points, and the one-upping after the latest iteration of the ISL's first organically bred rivalry.
At the opposite end of this spectrum of niceness was the video that showed Ryan Williams gesturing offensively at Aibanbha Dohling. Only Williams will know what he intended with the gesture and only Dohling can attest to any words exchanged between the two, but one thing is clear: Blasters have filed an official complaint, and it must be taken up and investigated on priority.
If Williams is found guilty of racist and derogatory behaviour, appropriate punishment must be meted out. If he is not, that should be stated clearly and loudly. Either way, this should not be brushed under the carpet.
Phalguni seeks solace in football
On the morning of NorthEast United's season opener against Mumbai, Konsham Phalguni Singh's father died. In the evening he was starting down the left wing. Different people have different ways to cope, and clearly, football is where Phalguni can lose, and save himself. He was not at his busy best -- the 30 touches he had in 90 minutes were the lowest among the outfield players and you can, of course, understand why -- but if it helped him, that's all that matters.
This column hopes football helps him in this time of grief, as he wants it to. Our condolences are with him and his family.
- NorthEast United FC (@NEUtdFC) September 24, 2023
Punjab FC look fun, but could be in trouble
Conceding three against this stacked Mohun Bagan side isn't an indictment of any kind, especially if you are a newly promoted side: but the nature of Punjab FC's concessions should worry them. Two were from inside the six-yard box (Jason Cummings and Manvir Singh) while the third was a tap-in into an empty net after a cutback from a Bagan player inside the six-yard box (Dimi Petratos from Liston Colaco). The only reason Bagan didn't score more was because they appeared insistent on walking it in.
Luca Majcen showed off his finishing skills with the consolation goal and Jordan Gil is expected to add more of that finishing firepower, but it won't matter if Punjab's defence has all the solidity of a well-made shahi paneer. Fun for the neutral, but not so much for the fan.
Could Chennaiyin be beyond Coyle?
Odisha beat Chennaiyin 2-0 and it was about as comfortable as that scoreline suggested. Sergio Lobera's men could hardly have asked for a better opener and they rarely had to slip out of second gear - this will come as a great slight to Owen Coyle.
As a manager, he prides himself on building teams that will have his fans sitting on the edge of their seat, but this team will struggle to get all but the hardcore ones to sit on those seats in the first place.
They lost a crucial cog in Anirudh Thapa over the summer and he's not truly been replaced. There's potential in a strike partnership of Jordan Murray and Connor Shields but it will take all of Coyle's wiles to make everything else click in the way he made happen in that miracle run to the Cup final.
The task on hand -- to lift a club that's been struggling in mediocrity for a couple of seasons now -- was always going to be hard, but the opener has made it clear just how much.
Hyderabad vs Goa was...
Cancelled. We'll have to wait for the reunion between the manager and the club he led to fantastic heights for a while longer because two key players per team have gone to the Asian Games to play for India. Coincidentally, (nothing explicit was ever said officially) their fixture was postponed....half an hour after the Asian Games squad was announced.
But it's not just these two clubs that are missing players, it's almost everyone. The fact that this happened, and was predated by some epic drama, is not a good look on anyone involved: least of all the federation.