The Indian Super League (ISL), which is all set to kickstart its 2020-21 season on Friday, will inspire other sports in India to resume after the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a standstill, believes Sourav Ganguly.

Even though the Indian Premier League (IPL) happened before the football’s top-flight competition, the cricket tournament was organised entirely in the United Arab Emirates. Thus, ISL stands to be the biggest sports event in India after the lockdown.

“Cricket has just finished; now it’s time for more sports, time for football. I have always been very connected with the ISL. I have enjoyed it because born in Calcutta and from a very young age, I have seen football only. Cricket came later, so I have been attached with ATK and now ATK Mohun Bagan since the inception of the ISL,” he said on ISL’s Instagram Live session.

“We have been champions three times, so the attachment is even more because when you play well and win, you get more attached to it, so looking forward to another great season starting in Goa from November 20,” he said.

Ganguly said ISL would inspire a lot of other sports as well.

“…and I say that, including cricket because our domestic season will start soon. We are looking to start in the New Year. It will inspire us to feel that security that if the ISL goes without any hiccups and I am sure it is going to happen, because the bio-bubbles have been created. We saw how the bio-bubbles have [had] an effect in the IPL. It will inspire a lot of other sports to keep starting because a lot of them are still tentative,” he said.

“We have to slowly enlarge the ISL and it will happen. Give this sport 10 years, give ISL 10 years, and let’s talk after 10 years. There’s no quick fix in this world, especially with football. We need to give it a bit more time. So, more teams will obviously be involved. We have seen it. We started from eight in the first year to 11 now and with time it’s going to bring interested parties back to the game.”

Meanwhile, the seventh season of the ISL will be played behind closed doors at just three venues in Goa – Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao, GMC Stadium in Bambolim and Tilak Maidan in Vasco da Gama.

The competition, which will see 11 teams fighting it out for Indian football’s biggest glory, will have 115 matches. All the teams will play each other in a double round-robin format in a league system before the top-four sides play the knockouts.

ATK Mohun Bagan will kickstart the tournament against Kerala Blasters on Friday, and in their next match on November 27, they will face arch-rivals SC East Bengal in the much-anticipated first derby of the season.