It has just been announced that six teams from India will be starting a new football League, primarily in the West Bengal area, and they are going to have a cricket-style auction of the some top-class veterans including the ex-Arsenal star Robert Pires.
Bhaswar Goswami, the executive director of Celebrity Management Group announced that he has signed up for an initial 30 year deal with the Indian Football Association and are expecting to expand the League every year in the manner of the MLS in America.
Other than Pires, Fabio Cannavaro, Jay-Jay Okocha, Robbie Fowler, Maniche, Juan Pablo Sorín, Fernando Morientes and Hernán Crespo have all put pen to paper to be included in the opening auction to be held at the end of next month. The competition itself will run for just two months.
Pires is looking forward to a new experience and a possibly ground-breaking move in one of the largest countries in the world. “Since I had nothing in Europe, why not try something completely unknown? I’ve never been over there,” Pires told L’Equipe.
“I am proud to be the first Frenchman to go and play there. And eight weeks is nothing.”
Pires also admitted he will be paid a minimum of €395,000 [£326,000] for seven weeks. “If my club president likes me, it could be €790,000 [£652,000]. It is a lot of money. I’m not going to complain about that am I? But I’m not going there as a tourist. It’s a new adventure.”
Great work if you can get it! Goswani is very sure that it will be a great success. He said: “We have signed seven icon players for the auction and each of the six teams will have one such player with a $600,000 salary cap,”
“We have started with six teams this year, all in the state of West Bengal but have already been approached to expand the league to other parts of the country.
“Every team will have $2.5m (£1.63m) to spend in the first year. They will have a maximum of four foreigners and a compulsory six under-21 Indian players in their squad.”
“The league is modelled on Major League Soccer and of course IPL,”
“We saw the hype and buzz around the players’ auction in IPL and feel it can be an equal success. It’s a brilliant concept. We expect owners to make profit much earlier than the IPL franchises.
“We are also in the process of finalising television rights for live broadcast across south-east Asia.”
“I think we made the right start by launching it in West Bengal. It’s a soccer-crazy state where 100,000 people throng to watch the local derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
“It will be a massive boost for local players to share the dressing room and field with some of the players they grew up idolising.”
It is about time that a country with 60 million inhabitants started making inroads into football, and hopefully in the future we will see Indians taking as much interest in football as they do in cricket.