After the ICL, the IPL and the IBL, it’s now the ISL.
Spanish football giants and Indian cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian Soccer League set to kick off later this year, organisers said this weekend.
La Liga leaders Atletico and former India captain Ganguly were part of the consortium that won the bid for the Kolkata team of the League which will begin mid-September and run till the end of November.
The ISL is bank-rolled by Reliance Industries, controlled by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, Rupert Murdoch’s Star India and sports management group IMG.
“I am very excited to have won the Kolkata Franchise of the ISL and being the first international team to be directly owning a club in India we along with our Indian Partners and IMG-Reliance aim to revolutionise football in the country,” Miguel Angel Gil Marin, the owner of Atletico, said in a statement.
Former batting great Tendulkar bagged the Kochi team with PVP Ventures, a company which has interests in real estate, media and also finances film projects.
“I will always remain a sportsman at heart who is keen to positively impact the sporting fabric of the nation,” Tendulkar, who retired from cricket last November, said.
“The Indian Super League presents a great opportunity to develop a platform for the youngsters to learn and enhance their talent to develop into outstanding players.
“With the Kochi club, we will strive to ‘score our goals’ and play a part in developing the game of football across the country.”
The league, styled on cricket’s cash-rich Indian Premier League and backed by the country’s soccer governing body (AIFF), will also have a fair presence of the film industry.
Bollywood’s hottest young actor Ranbir Kapoor is the co-owner of the Mumbai team. The 31-year-old ‘Barfi!’ star says he too hopes to translate his passion for the game into a movement that will develop football at India’s grassroots level.
“It is a moment of great pride for me to be a part of the Indian Super League and to represent the vibrant city of Mumbai.
“Football has never been far away from my daily life since childhood, and now as a partner in the Indian Super League, I am looking forward to translate my passion into contributing to the growth of the sport,” said Ranbir.
Fellow Bollywood stars Salman Khan and John Abraham are co-owners of the Pune and Guwahati teams respectively.
Chennai-based Sun Group, which also owns the IPL’s Hyderabad franchise, bagged the Bangalore team, cable TV distribution company DEN Networks won the bid for Delhi while the Goa team went to a consortium including Indian conglomerate Videocon Industries.
Local media have reported that the ISL will see some big-name international players and coaches take the field though the organisers were yet to announce any signings.