As the dust settles on the first edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) Australian and Kerala Blasters striker Andrew Barisic reflects on an experience he “will never forget”, challenging players like Alessandro Nesta, playing in front big crowds and the vibe beaming out of season one of the ISL.
The 28 year old’s career has spun across many of Asia’s professional leagues, experiencing football in countries such as Indonesia and China. But the ISL was a different beast, and Barisic admits that he only fully appreciated the enormity of his past few months after the season had reached its end.
“After the whole ISL had wrapped up I sat back and thought about many moments I had with unbelievable players that I have admired for years and it really was something that I will never forget,” Barisic recalls.
The former Gold Coast United man said the clash against big name superstars didn’t register to him on the pitch. Barisic recalled a moment where he and AC Milan legend Alessandro Nesta fought tooth and nail for the ball. Lost in the heat of battle he didn’t take too much notice of the collision, until he saw the pictures from the media post-match.
“I saw media pictures and went ‘wow, that’s Nesta and I fighting for the ball’,” Barisic said.
The Indian Super League is the fourth most watched football league in the world with a television viewership of 420 million people across the globe. Barisic believes the league is very well structured for the direction it wanted to go in as “a small quick tournament”, and he says, ” they succeeded quite well drawing in crowds and television audiences.”
The league’s foreign player rule is different to the one commonly practiced across Asia. Most Asian leagues have a maximum number of four foreigners allowed, whereas the ISL accommodates six foreign players. Barisic says, “it [allowed for] a greater standard and lets each team show their best players.”
The comparisons among other Asian leagues have emerged since the inception of the Indian Super League. Many have likened its opening season to the early years of the J.League, and the smattering of big names in the Arab Gulf.
However, the Australian doesn’t think his countrymen should overlook the Indian Super League, but rather take the opportunity with both hands. Barisic says the A-League has only ever had one Alessandro Del Piero-esque signing at a time, whereas the ISL in its debut season has managed to lure multiple big name stars.
The Kerala Blasters man admits the star players may be in the latter stages of their careers but “the truth is that these players create interest from around the world and exposure no leagues within Asia have ever had.”
After the Indian Super League’s first season the consensus is that it has been a resounding success, with average crowds of 26,505, large media attention and booming TV viewership.
Barisic believes in “years to come there will be no question that [ISL] will take over from other domestic Asian league and become a power house.” Although the ISL accomplished their goals for season one and its trajectory looks promising, Barisic concedes there is still room for growth.
“Like anything there’s always room for improvement.”
Now with the Indian Super League season over Barisic returns home to Australia on holiday, weighing up his options for his next move. He’s not closed the door on a return to the A-League, but adds “It is extremely difficult for a player to re-enter once they have played elsewhere in Asia, no matter how successful they have been.”
There may be uncertainty on where that next move might be for Barisic, but what we do know is he won’t be forgetting his eventful dalliance with the Indian Super League.