Another sport with 11 players per team is leading in the popularity in the second most populous country in the world – cricket. So how do footballers make a living in India?
Interestingly, India has two (2) top tier football leagues: I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL) which is based on a franchise system and has started in October 2014…
Is the passion of football players enough to make a breakthrough in this fast developing country? Apparently in the past whole families were giving their money for the most popular football players’ wages and even weddings and funerals couldn’t stop the most enthusiastic fans from going to the stadium. All was well, but in reality a foreign player couldn’t make a living from the ordinary salaries in the past.
The average salary jumped for 60 percent up to 85,000 euros
The things are most definitely changing and football is getting more and more popular in India. The average salary of a professional footballer jumped in between 40 and 60 percent when comparing seasons 2012/2013 and 2013/2014. In numbers that means that salary went up from around 60,000 euros to 85,000 euros per season according to the All India Football Federation.
Nigerian striker Odafe Onyeka Okolie who just moved from Mohun Bagan to Churchill Brothers (both competing in an Indian top division I-League) used to be the highest paid player in India who was receiving around 400,000 euros per season. Ranti Martins, another Nigerian striker, was second in the rankings with a little more than 200,000 euros, before the move from United S.C. to East Bengal. Australian Tolgay Özbey is in the third place and Carlos Hernandez from Costa Rica was in the fourth place, when he was playing in the I-League.
Already whooping numbers sound even better when you find out that clubs added free accommodation, paid for players’ children tuition fees and threw in a free car. The last one not being made by Indian Tata Motors, the clubs gave their players an expensive Mercedes-Benz S-Class car.
Home grown heroes with lower salaries are making a breakthrough
Home grown players however have to satisfy themselves with lower salaries, so for example Indian goalkeeper nicknamed Spiderman – Subrata Pal – who signed for Danish Superliga club FC Vestsjælland in 2014, received around 130,000 euros when playing in India. An interesting fact, Pal is actually only fifth Indian footballer that is playing professionally abroad, the second to join a top-tier European side and the first Indian goalkeeper to play abroad.
Even second league players in India make around 12,000 euros per season, but the really good news is that there is more and more interest in football among the crowds. Kolkata derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal drew record 130,000 fans in 1997 and still draws more than 80,000 spectators each time. Ordinary league matches still regularly have up to 5,000 and more spectators.
Two very different leagues are interesting for foreigners
Young people in India are mostly following European clubs, but things are shifting in the right direction. India only has around 1,500 clubs and surprisingly low number of 30 dedicated football fields. Also, the clubs are more or less owned by private business or families, so the budget of even the I-League clubs vary drastically. An interesting league will start in October. Indian Super League will run for three months, it will not use the promotion and relegation system, instead it will use a franchise system. Eight teams must also have one notable (famous) player and seven other foreigners.
The things are slowly moving forward and in the distant future we can expect a supernova from an Indian subcontinent. The road there will remain hard and winding but new opportunities are arising for football players willing to prove themselves in the wonderful India.