New Delhi/Kolkata: The football fraternity today hailed the coming in of business houses and leading personalities from cricket and entertainment industry in the high-profile Indian Super League after the organisers announced the eight franchises winners.
The bid winners of the eight franchises of the league, which is scheduled to be held in September-November, was announced in Mumbai by organisers IMG-Reliance after evaluation of the bids by a seven-member panel.
Indian cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were among the host of high-profile winning bidders, which also include Bollywood stars Ranbir Kapoor, Salman Khan and John Abraham, for the league that is set to take Indian football by storm.
Legendary footballer and former captain I M Vijayan said that the involvement of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly will lend credence to the ISL and help in taking football forward in the country.
"I am excited anf thrilled at the news that Sachin has bagged the Kochi team. He is the greatest sportsperson in the country with millions of fan following. Sourav Ganguly has also won Kolkata. Certainly, their presence will do wonders in the ISL and in Indian football in general," Vijayan told PTI from his home in Kerala.
"For long, the business houses have been shy to invest in football. But now with the coming of the ISL, some big businessmen have come at least. Money will be poured in Indian football now. It is a wonderful news for football," he said.
"I am glad especially for the domestic players and youngsters. They will rub shoulders with some top players in the world. They will gain in experience. Financially also, they will gain," he added.
Viajayan, also known as the `Black Panther` in Indian football, said Tendulkar being the owner of the Kochi team will be a great boost in reviving football in Kerala.
"Kerala was a football powerhouse of Indian football some years back but it has declined. Now with the coming of the ISL and Tendulkar on board, I hope football will be revived in Kerala."
Former India captain and Olympian P K Banerjee said the ISL will improve the infrastructure.
"It`s a fantastic news. There`s no denying the fact that money will be poured in to Indian football now. Infrastructure and all will change now. Money is a very big factor. In our times, when I was the coach of the Indian team for the Asian Games in 1982, many players had stopped coming to the camp for lack of money.
Banerjee recalled the tough times they would face back in those days.
"I had discussed this with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. We had suffered like anything in our days. But it`s great to see that things are changing these days. I envy the boys who are getting to play in this time. I`m sure ISL will help India do better at the upcoming U-17 World Cup in 2017.
"Mind you, World Cup is a different ball game, teams are very strong, at a different level but I will not be surprised if India make the quarters. I will be happiest person to die if I see Indian football make a place for themselves at the world level."
Another Indian legend Chuni Goswami called it exciting times for Indian football and appreciated the presence of corporates.
"I`m very happy that a person of Sourav Ganguly`s stature has forayed into football. It`s certainly exciting times for the Indian football. With the involvement of the corporate sectors, the real development will be seen. Both in terms of infrastructure and standard of the game.
"It could not have come at a better time when Indian football is languishing at the world stage, with a ranking of 145. With the inflow of money, many more youngsters will be motivated to take up the sport now. So far, it was all about Nigerians in the foreigners roster in Indian football. But with ISL, we will get to see world stars."
Shabbir Ali, who had also captained the Indian football team, felt it will bring the fans back to the stadia.
"The concept of IPL has worked well and it`s a welcome sign that it has embraced football now. Nobody will be unhappy with football anymore. Let`s not get into comparisons but I`ve always maintained there`s more crowd in football than cricket.
"We see better crowd in a club football match than any Ranji Trophy in domestic cricket. Certainly it proves that football attracts more crowd. The ISL will just take it to another level.
"Involvement of star cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly along with a host of Bollywood celebrities will add glamour to the sport. It`s exciting time ahead especially when India will host the U-17 World Cup in three years time."