India's big bucks football league

Football in India may see some big names and bigger money with an IPL-style million-dollar league in the offing.

Fabio Cannavaro

By Himanshu Shekhar

Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro, Arsenal legend Robert Pires, Argentine international Juan Pablo Sorín, ex-Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler, former Spain striker Fernando Morientes and the Argentinian Hernán Crespo are likely to be seen in action in an football league, modelled on the IPL, to be held in the traditionally football-crazy state of West Bengal.

The tournament will have six teams and the initial bidding for these starts on January 22. Each team will comprise of 30 players with the number of overseas players not exceeding four.  Each franchise will have to pick six players from their own catchment area and the same number from the Under-21 category. That leaves every franchise in the hunt for 14 players from the all over the country.  Each team will have the right to bid for one icon player, who will be within the four overseas quota.

Each team will have a USD 2.5 million as maximum spending budget.

"The Indian Footbal Association (IFA) is organising the event and it has full backing of the All India Football Federation," said Bhaswar Goswami of the Celebrity Management Group, the promoters of the event.

"We have got interests from big names like the Sahara Group and with football being so popular in this part of India, we expect the tournament to be a big success," Goswami told from Kolkata.

Interestingly, even the coaches, all foreigners, for these teams will be selected through a bidding process. The coach's term will be for a season and the franchise will have the right to go for a new coach in the subsequent years.

"We have been in contact with coaches of many countries, especially Latin American countries," Goswami added. "There will be six coaches in the bidding process, all of whom have huge international experience."

Former England mid-fielder and a man known for referring to Diego Maradona as a "cheat", Peter Reed, is understood to have consented to coach one of the teams.

"CMG has bagged a 30-year deal with the IFA and will float tenders for the first season," Goswami added. "We are also in the process of finalising the television rights for the event.

"This will be a huge opportunity for the players in this part of the world to rub shoulders with the big names of international football and a terrific plus for Indian football as a whole," said Goswami.

"Bengal is crazy about football. Over 100,000 people turn up for a Kolkata derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. We therefore thought to start here and then move to other cities in subsequent years," he added.

The AIFF, when contacted, confirmed that they had given permission to the IFA to organise the event and hopefully it would mark the beginning of a new era in Indian football when the tournament kicks off on Febuary 25.

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