'ISL will change Indian football for good'
The 'Sleeping Giant' of world football has finally woken up with the advent of Indian Super League and organisers, stakeholders associated with the much-anticipated event expressed confidence that this will change Indian football for good.
Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were among the host of high-profile winning bidders as the organises of ISL unveiled the eight franchises for the event that is set to take Indian football by storm.
"It is with great pride that I welcome the eight League Partners to the Indian Super League. We want to unlock the unbound aspirational energy of our youth through grassroots and community development programs," said Nita Ambani, chairperson of IMG-Reliance, organisers of the event.
"Together, we will strive to build a vibrant ecosystem that will provide impetus to football in India. As Mentor of the League, I commit myself to development of football as a major sport for the youth of India," she added.
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Image: The India team sing their national anthem
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Exciting period ahead
The bid winners for the eight franchises of the league, which is scheduled to be held in September-November, was announced here by organisers IMG-Reliance after evaluation of the bids by a seven-member panel.
The league is being organised in partnership with broadcast partners Star India and has the backing of All India Football Federation.
AIFF president Praful Patel called it the most exciting period in the history of Indian football.
"No period in India's long and proud history in football is more exciting than today. This day will go down in memory as a special day for Indian football as eight-high profile celebrities and corporates are being introduced into the sport through Indian Super League.
"With IMG Reliance & Star providing the perfect foundation, the League has become an unstoppable force which would change Indian football," Patel said.
"I hope the grassroots obligations of the franchises gives a huge push to the development of the game. Along with the world class infrastructure that is being created for the Under 17 FIFA World Cup, and AIFF's expression of interest to host 2015 and 2016 FIFA Club World Cup, Indian football is definitely turning a new leaf in its history," he added.
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Image: Praful Patel and Sepp Blatter
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
'Indian football needs an innovative approach to amass popularity'
Tendulkar bagged the Kochi franchise along with PVP Ventures, which also owns a team in the Indian Badminton League, while Ganguly, who bid by forming a consortium with Spanish League giants Atletico Madrid and businessmen Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjeev Goenka and Utsav Parekh, won the Kolkata franchise.
"Inspiring our nation to excel is a priority and comes naturally to us at Star India. With our expertise in marketing and production of sports content, our task is cut out to etch football in the sports culture of India," said Uday Shankar, CEO of Star India.
AIFF secretary Kushal Das said, "AIFF too is a firm believer of the fact that Indian football needs an innovative approach to amass popularity. I have always believed Indian football needs an innovative and experimental format like Indian Super League to bring the fans back to the stadiums."
Image: Kids play football in Kolkata
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
'We are enormously pleased at the level of interest'
Chairman and Chief Executive of IMG and Chairman of IMG Reliance Michael Dolan said, "Today's announcement is the culmination of several years of hard work and strategic planning.
"We are enormously pleased at the level of interest the creation of the Indian Super League has generated. We believe the League signals the beginning of a new era in the development of football in India and, in the future, will be the source of great pride for the people of India."
Given the burgeoning interest in football and the country's long association with the sport, the ISL desires to position itself among the best footballing competitions across the world, as an entertaining and high quality league that would engage hundreds of millions of fans and drives improvement in playing standards.
Image: Vendors sell Argentina flags in Kolkata
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters