Here is our indispensable guide to the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League.
What is the Indian Super League?
The Indian Super League (ISL) is a football league based on a franchise model. It is not just the first of its kind in India, but also in the world. Starting with the Indian Premier League, India has seen several franchise based sport leagues blossom in recent times. After cricket, there was the badminton league and more recently, the kabaddi league. A tennis league is in the pipeline, which kicks-off in November. The ISL will comprise of eight newly formed franchise teams right across the country. The league is scheduled to take place from October 12 to December 20.
Who are the teams involved?
The eight franchises are: Atletico de Kolkata, Chennaiyin FC, Delhi Dynamos, FC Goa, Kerala Blasters, Mumbai City FC, NorthEast United FC and Pune City.
What is the format?
The eight teams will face each other in a round-robin format. The teams will play each other twice – home and away. Top four teams will move into the play-offs, which consist of two-legged semi-finals. The winners will play a one-leg final. The ISL does not have relegation or promotion.
Atletico de Kolkata
Based: Kolkata, West Bengal
Stadium:Salt Lake Stadium
Owners: Kolkata Games and Sports – includes Sourav Ganguly and investment from La Liga champions Atletico Madrid.
Head coach:Antonio Lopez Habas (Spain)
Marquee Player: Luis Garcia (Spain)
Kolkata has long been synonymous with Indian football. Few fans can match the passion exuded by the Bengal football fans. The Salt Lake Stadium seen visitors like Pele and Maradona. The Kolkata team has Sourav Ganguly as part of the investment team. Ganguly, one of India's greatest cricket captains, is revered by the people of Bengal. Antonio López Habas's resume as head coach includes stints in Bolivia and Valencia. Luis Garcia, the marquee signing for Kolkata will lead a group of Spain-based players Borja Fernandez, Jofre Mateu and Josemi. Among the Indian players, Climax Lawrence is a prominent name in the team. The Goan is a veteran India international and former captain of Dempo S.C.
Based: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Stadium: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium
Owners: Ronnie Screwvala, Abhishek Bachchan and MS Dhoni.
Head coach: Marco Materazzi (Italy)
Marquee Player: Elano (Brazil)
Withdrawal by the Bangalore framchise led to the formation of Chennaiyin. Initially, a group led by Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar was supposed to be the key investors in the franchise. However, contractual obligations of Gavaskar to BCCI led to him dropping out. Bollywood actor and producer Abhishek Bachchan (who also owns the Pro Kabaddi League franchise Jaipur Pink Panthers) stepped in to become a co-owner of the club. Italian World Cup winner Marco Materazzi will be player-manager for the Chennai franchsie. The former Inter Milan centre-back is famous for being head butted by Zinedine Zidane during the 2006 FIFA World Cup final. Former Manchester City midfielder, Elano will be key figure in the Chennai team. Ex-Bolton and Hull full-back Bernard Mendy, former Manchester United left-back Mikael Silvestre and youth team player Bojan Djordjic are other key foreign players. The versatile Harmanjot Singh Khabra is the Indian player to watch out for Chennai.
Stadium: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium
Owners: DEN Networks
Head coach: Harm van Veldhoven (Holland)
Marquee Player: Alessandro del Piero (Italy)
Delhi Dynamos pulled off a coup with the signing of Alesandro Del Piero. Clearly, the Italian is the biggest name in the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League. One of India’s largest cable TV distribution company, DEN Networks owns the Dynamos. The club also has a strategic tie up with Dutch Eredivisie side Feyenoord. Harm van Veldhoven will be the head coach of the team, the 52-year-old has never managed a professional football team outside Belgium. With a career spanning over two decades, Del Piero is undoubtedly the key figure in the Dynamos side. Delhi's midfield options comprise of plenty of foreign players - , Bruno Herrero Arias (ESP), Gustavo Marmentini Dos Santos (BRA), Hans Mulder (NED), Henrique Dinis Oliveira Dias (POR) and Pavel Elias (CZE). Among the Indian players, Steven Dias is a player to watch out for. Dias made a name for himself playing for the all conquering Mahindra United team (now disbanded) with his trademark free-kicks and crosses from the right wing. It's hardly any surprise that Stevens favorite player is David Beckham.
Based: Margao, Goa
Stadium: Fatorda Stadium
Owners: Virat Kohli, Venugopal Dhoot, Dattaraj Salgaocar and Shrinivas Dempo.
Head coach: Zico (Brazil)
Marquee Player: Robert Pires (France)
Goan football clubs have dominated India's top flight football. Dempo Sports Club have been the most successful team in the I-League in the last decade. This bodes well for the FC Goa simply because majority of the Dempo players are part of this ISL franchise. The team management is almost the same as well, which suggests most players will already be comfortable with the set up unlike other clubs. The team is owned by cricket superstar Virat Kohli, Videocon and Goan industry tycoons Dattaraj Salgaocar and Srinivas Dempo (owner of Dempo SC). Brazil legend Zico has been roped in by the owners to manage FC Goa, which has generated a huge buzz in the smallest Indian state. Former Arsenal superstar Robert Pires will be their marquee player. Along with the Frenchman, ex-Gunner Andre Santos has joined the club. One of I-League's best striker Tolgay Ozbey will lead the FC Goa attack. Local lad and India international Clifford Miranda is a player to watch out for as well.
Based: Kochi, Kerala
Stadium: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium
Owners: Sachin Tendulkar and Prasad V Potluri.
Head coach and Marquee Player: David James (England)
Kerala Blasters are owned by India's greatest sporting icon Sachin Tendulkar and PVP Ventures, one of India’s largest investors in Media and Entertainment. The name Kerala Blasters has been derived from Sachin's nickname, "the master blaster". Apart from Kerala being one of the hubs of Indian football, the association of Tendulkar with this franchise has ended up generating a huge buzz around the team. Former East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan, will manage the Blasters. He has a strong understanding of Indian players and domestic football, which is why he is a great choice as head coach. David James has been roped in as manager cum marquee signing. The former England keeper has played in the English Premier League for a major part of his career and his influence in grooming the young Kerala players will be invaluable. Former Newcastle and Cardiff striker Michael Chopra will lead the line for the club. Indian players to look out for are veteran Renedy Singh, young defender Nirmal Chettri and Mehtab Hossain, who is the best player in his position in the country.
Mumbai City FC
Based: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Stadium: DY Patil Stadium
Owners: Ranbir Kapoor and Bimal Parekh
Head coach: Peter Reid (England)
Marquee player: Fredrik Ljungberg (Sweden)
On paper, Mumbai are the strongest team in the ISL 2014. Right from the management to the players, the club has done a wonderful job of setting up the team for the league. Bollywood superstar Ranbir Kapoor is the key investor in this team. Former Manchester City, Sunderland and Coventry managed Peter Reid will be in-charge of Mumbai. Reid also has a good understanding of Asian football and so far, the players seem to be enjoying working with him. Former Arsenal star Freddie Ljungberg is the marquee player for Mumbai. Another key player in the team is controversial striker Nicolas Anelka. Despite being known as a troublemaker, the Frenchman has bags of experience and a touch of genius. Two of the best Indian players are also part of the Mumbai team – Subrata Pal, India's number one goalkeeper and Syed Rahim Nadi, arguably the best footballer in country. German defender Manuel Freidrich, will be the backbone of this team with his commanding presence at the back. Overall, the team is well balanced and have been termed as the favorites to lift the ISL trophy.
NorthEast United FC
Based: Guwahati, Assam
Stadium: Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium
Owners: John Abraham and I-League club Shilong Lajong.
Head coach: Ricki Herbert (Australia)
Marquee player: Joan Capdevilla
NorthEast United represents seven north-eastern states of India. For that region of the country, Football is undoubtedly the favorite game, even more than cricket. The franchise is owned by John Abraham and I-League club Shilong Lajong. Like Goa, most players representing this team are from the I-League side Shilong Lajong. Hence there is a familiarity of the set up and the players have a solid understanding among themselves. Former New Zealand coach, Ricki Herbert is in charge of the NEUFC. 2010 World Cup winning member of the famed Spain team, Joan Capdevila is the marquee players for this franchise. Having earned more than 60 caps for the best national team of his generation, there is no denying the defender has great ability and experience. NEUFC don't boast of any Indian or local superstars, but the team has plenty of youngsters with great potential. England striker James Keene will be leading the striking department for this franchise.
FC Pune City
Based: Pune, Maharashtra
Stadium: Balewadi Stadium
Owners: Wadhawan Group
Head coach: Franco Colomba (Italy)
Marquee Player: David Trezeguet (France)
Pune City is the second team from the state of Maharashtra in the ISL (Mumbai being the other). The team is owned by Wadhawan Group and Serie A side Fiorentina own a 15% stake in the franchise. Italian Franco Colomba will be the head coach of the Pune team. This is his first assignment outside Italy. Former France and Juventus striker David Trezeguet is the marquee player for Pune. Trezeguet was part of the 1998 World Cup winning French squad. Another key player for this franchise will be Adrian Mutu, who has played for Chelsea and Juventus. Pune boasts of some of the best talent in Indian football. Lenny Rodriguez, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Joquiam Abranches and Pritam Kotal are all regulars for club and country. Another interesting player for Pune will be Dudu Omnagbemi, who during his time at Sporting Clube De Goa, took the I-League by storm scoring over 20 goals per season on numerous occasions.