ISL 2020-21: The Indian Super League’s seventh edition concluded with Mumbai City FC beating ATK Mohun Bagan 2-1 in the final to win their maiden ISL title on Saturday. It was a strange ISL 7 during a difficult time amid the pandemic and India’s premier football competition showed the way for others. Over five months, the tournament was conducted in Goa without any bio-bubble breach and zero COVID-19 cases reported with Roy Krishna winning hearts with his goal-scoring acumen.
However, apart from that success, there were plenty more stories from other success stories on the pitch during ISL 7. From Indian players leading Hyderabad FC to fifth-place finish to Mumbai City FC’s league double, Insidesport.co has listed 7 high points of ISL 7.
ISL 2020-21: 7 high points of Indian Super League Season 7
1. ISL 2020-21 leads the way with successful management: Over the years, ISL has been criticised for many wrong reasons but the 2021 season would be remembered for the organiser’s management skills. Despite the tournament happening over five months in 18 bio-secure bubbles across 14 hotels in Goa, there was zero COVID-19 cases or bio-bubble breach. Each player was tested on average 50 times. India skipper Sunil Chhetri after leaving the bubble became the only Indian footballer to test positive for the virus.
2. Rise of Indian youngsters: While Sunil Chhetri still came out on top as the top Indian scorer in the league with six strikers, there were plenty of Indian heroes on the pitch for clubs. ATK Mohun Bagan’s Manvir Singh, Mumbai City FC’s Bipin Singh, FC Goa’s Ishan Pandita, Hyderabad FC’s Akash Mishra, Liston Colaco and NorthEast United FC’s Lalengmawia were to name a few. These Indian players took the limelight during the season with some fantastic performances.
3. Rise of Hyderabad FC: After finishing at the bottom of the ISL table last season, Hyderabad went for a squad overhaul. But instead of going for expensive foreigner recruitment, led by former Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca Thangboi and assistant Singto, the club’s Indian scouting was top-notch. Furthermore, as the season progressed, many a time, the club went with three to four foreigners max in the starting XI, trusting the Indian players more. As a result, 19-year-old Akash Mishra had a breakout season, starting most matches among any Indians in the league. Apart from Mishra, Asish Rai, Sahil Panwar, Hitesh Sharma, Liston Colaco, all exceeded expectation. Hitesh, Akash and Liston earned national team call-up for their fantastic performance in the season.
4. Roy Krishna becomes fan favourite: When ATK roped in Fijian international with Indian heritage Roy Krishna from Australian A-League side Wellington Phoenix, it raised few eyebrows. Roy Krishna came with a proven goalscoring pedigree and did not disappoint in the debut season, scoring 15 goals in 21 matches as ATK won the ISL title. This time wearing Green & Maroon, he did not disappoint. With 14 goals in 23 matches, he won the golden boot.
5. Double delight for Mumbai City: Under new coach Sergio Lobera and City Football Group’s takeover, Mumbai City embarked on a new journey. The Islanders not only won the league winners’ shield to secure AFC Champions League berth for next seasons, but they also won the knockout round to lift the ISL 2020-21 title for the first time in seven seasons. They became only the second club after Bengaluru FC to do a double in the ISL.
6. Kolkata derby moves to ISL 2020-21: For the last four years, the Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan hade been mulling over switching to the ISL. But the famed Kolkata derby remained an I-League fixture until last season. With Mohun Bagan merging with ATK and East Bengal entering the ISL with a new investor, the two renewed their rivalry in Indian football. The new entity, ATK Mohun Bagan, finished runners-up in the ISL while East Bengal had to bite the dust, finishing ninth out of 11 teams. While without the crowd, the Kolkata derby wasn’t a success in the debut season but in the coming years, it will give ISL the prominence and an injection of fans it needed with two massive fan bases of the two clubs in India.
7. Massive increase in transfer fees: Indian clubs usually sign foreign or Indian players on free transfers and switching allegiance is quite normal. But the ISL 7 saw a massive Rs 9.5 crore being spent on transfer fees. It was a six-time jump from the last seasons with ISL clubs raking in Rs 2.6 crore from player sales. Manvir Singh and Dheeraj Singh became two of the most expensive Indian transfers in the ISL 2020-21. FC Goa sold Manvir to ATK Mohun Bagan for Rs 80 lakh. Dheeraj joined Goa from ATKMB for Rs 70 lakh. Meanwhile, Mumbai City FC paid Rs 1.6 crore to secure Hugo Boumous’ signing from FC Goa. There were several other foreign signings as well that involved transfer fees.
ISL 2020-21: From Roy Krishna to emerging Indian youngsters 7 high points of Indian Super League Season 7