After Bhaichung Bhutia set the football ringing by roping in foreign soccer stars to play in India more often than not, good times appear to be on the horizon for Indian Football. Now a Football’s Indian Premier League (IPL) is set to be launched in February this year. A six-team league representing various West Bengal pockets will be participating in the league in Football’s IPL beginning February 25, 2012 for nearly one and half month till April 8, 2012.
The league being organised by Celebrity Management Group (CMG) will feature players like world Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro, former Argentina skipper Juan Pablo Sorin, former Liverpool forward Robbie Fowler, Argentina’s Hernan Crespo and Frenchman Robert Pires alongside local talent. CMG has signed a 30-year agreement with the Kolkata-based Indian Football Association. The Organisers hope that the league will attract fans who currently follow European clubs.
Like in the IPL, the league will hold an auction where teams can bid for players within a budget of US$2.5 million in the first year. Each team can have up to four foreign players and a foreign coach. There will be at least six under-21 Indian players in their squad. Nearly 30 international soccer stars and six foreign coaches will be auctioned off in Kolkata for the Feb 25-April 8 league. There will be seven ‘icon’ players in the auction and each of the six teams will have one such player with a $600,000 salary cap.
Bhaswar Goswami, executive director of CMG said “We’ve been planning this league for over 18 months. We’ve signed some players and are in the process of signing several others,” Goswami said. “The format will ensure that our players get to interact with top players and coaches, which will help rejuvenate our own football.”
The CMG is also in the process of finalising television rights for live broadcast across south-east Asia.”
India’s national football team is ranked 162nd by FIFA. However, Indian team qualified for the 2011 Asian Cup and also reached the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup before losing to the United Arab Emirates.
So, is Indian football witnessing its own turnaround. Foreign clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich have already been planning academies in the country. Bayerns recently played in Bhutia’s farewell match in Delhi which saw nearly 35,000 people. That’s quite a phenomena in a cricket crazy country. The league hope to cash in on the millions of football fans of Kolkata and northeast. For the rest of the country, it will be probably the most important football show ever on Indian soil.