Top 5 things to look out for in the ISL 2021-22 season

In less than a week, the 2021-22 Indian Super League (ISL) season will begin. There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming season, as there always is. When you examine the moves, pre-season friendlies, and other variables that occur before the start of the season, there are a lot of alternatives. As a result, some clubs have experienced leadership, administration, and coaching changes, resulting in the massive squad and philosophy overhauls.

Taking all of this into account, here are five things to look forward to in the next ISL 2021-22 season:

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Khalid Jamil: NorthEast United’s Head Coach

NorthEast United named Khalid Jamil as their head coach for the ISL 2021-22 season, as predicted. He became the competition’s first-ever permanent Indian head coach as a result of this. Last season, the 44-year-old led his team to the playoffs, scoring 33 points in the process. This was a huge accomplishment for the club after taking over from Gerard Nus in the middle of the season.

Under Jamil’s leadership, the team went on a 10-match winning streak, which included victories over both of the season’s eventual finalists. Jamil has always been a successful manager. During his seven-year time with Mumbai FC, he won the I-Competition title with Aizawl FC in 2017 and kept the club afloat in the league despite low resources.

He essentially has a wealth of experience in Indian football, both as a player and as a manager. He also took over a failing NorthEast United side and led them to a third-place finish in the ISL, their best in the league. So keep your eyes peeled for the Highlanders.

The Rule of the Four Foreigners

According to the Asian Football Confederation’s club competitions regulations, international players will be limited in the ISL 2021-22 season. Clubs will be able to sign a total of six foreign players, with one Asian-quota player being required. Essentially, this means that there may only be a maximum of four international players on the pitch at any given moment, and a minimum of seven Indian players. It also means that young Indian players would have greater possibilities.

However, for a league built on the reputation of star foreign players, such a shift might result in significant adjustments, as we’ve seen with clubs like Jamshedpur FC, Hyderabad FC, FC Goa, and Bengaluru FC.

These teams have been working hard on their youth development, allowing them to adapt to playing with fewer international players. But it remains to be seen which of them thrives. Regardless, the rule’s impact is certain to be significant.

Weekend Doubleheaders with a Twist

The ISL has changed the start time of its Saturday double-headers to 9:30 p.m. this season. While the typical weekday game will begin at 7:30 p.m., the weekend doubleheaders will begin at 9:30 p.m., up from 5:30 p.m.

Despite the motivations of raising viewing and protecting players from the heat of Goa, this choice has sparked criticism. While some are in favor of it since it will help players and push the ISL to a global scale, others are concerned about the implications of clashing with European fixtures. In other words, they believe that as European football and other elite sporting events take precedence, weekend viewership will fall.

Massive Award Nominees

Apart from the title, with changes to the team and management, there’s a chance that the league’s honors will be considerably more competitive this season. With only four foreigners permitted, more Indian children will be able to play.

Following that, several promising candidates for the “Emerging Player” award have emerged through the U-23 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers, the Durand Cup, and the SAFF Championships. Rahim Ali, Vikram Pratap Singh, Suresh Wangjam, and Muhammed Nemil are among the names who have given outstanding performances.

When it comes to the “Golden Boot,” the ISL has seen a slew of superstars demonstrate their goal-scoring prowess over the years. There are many competitors this time as well, given the revamps and previous performances of players at their previous teams. While last season’s winner Roy Krishna remains in fine shape, he’ll be up against the likes of Airam Cabrera, Jonathas de Jesus, Igor Angulo, and Bartholomew Ogbeche, to mention a few.

The “Golden Glove,” an accolade for which many custodians will compete, comes next. Arindam Bhattacharya and Amrinder Singh tied with 10 clean sheets in the last season. Aside from the two, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Dheeraj Singh appear to be potential opponents this time. Gurpreet has won the accolade twice, making him the only goalkeeper to do so.

This, combined with his winning experience at the SAFF Championships, could help him recapture the trophy. Dheeraj, on the other hand, was outstanding at the AFC U-23 competition and has been for some time, making him one of the most potential Indian prospects in the ISL.

As a result, a slew of competitors for these honours emerge. Individual brilliance, however, may not be enough to choose the winners, as there are many other elements at play. Keep a watch on all of these names, though.

Are there any Chances of Fans Returning?

Last season, no fans were allowed, and the ISL, like most premier leagues, implemented fan walls, which allowed fans to be featured on large screens inside the venue. This time, there were beginning discussions about allowing fans inside stadiums, but nothing concrete came of it. There is still a potential that fans may return to stadiums, at least in the second part of the ISL 2021-22 season, thanks to a decline in COVID-19 infections and record vaccination rates.

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