New Delhi: Even as the deadlock over the proposed IPL-style football tournament persists, former England and Manchester United defender Gary Pallister today called it a "great initiative" and wants the stakeholders of Indian football to support it.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and its commercial partner IMG-Reliance are set to launch the Indian Premier League-inspired league in January next year, which will see a mix of some top foreign and Indian players competing on the same platform for over three months.
"I am big cricket fan. I have watched the IPL. It`s a great idea, great initiative that should be backed. But whether it works for football, only time will tell. It depends on how it is received. Hopefully, it will get the backing," Pallister said.
Pallister had a nine-year spell at Manchester United from 1989 to 1998. He also played for Middlesbrough and Darlington and appeared in England colours for 22 times between 1988 and 1996.
The AIFF-IMG`s proposal, however, has not gone down well with the I-League clubs, who under I-League Professional Football Clubs Association (IPFCA), have decided not to release their players or take any one associated with the tournament on loan.
Pallister was in the capital in connection with the `Airtel Rising Stars` soccer talent hunt programme.
Asked about speculations about United`s star striker Wayne Rooney`s departure from Old Trafford, Pallister was hopeful that the player would stay.
"Hopefully, Rooney will stay at United. He is a world-class player. At 27 he is at the peak of his career. Hope he continues to help the team win more trophies. Everyone at the club and the fans want Wayne to be playing here next season," he said.
"United will definitely not like to sell him," the 48-year-old added.
Talking about the challenges United`s new coach Davis
is expected to face, Pallister felt the former Everton manager would do a good job.
50-year-old Moyes was appointed coach for a six-year term after the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson called it quits in May.
"Fergie made his decisions, now Moyes will make his own. He will bring in replacements. Moyes knows what it takes to win a title. Man U have a great chance to win the title this year. It has got the strength and depth in the team," Pallister said.
"We have got the experience and a great manager to take the team forward. It will be a different sort of pressure from Everton.
"He did a phenomenal job at Everton and I think he will be a success with Manchester United," he added.
Pointing out that no English club had made it to the semifinals of the Last Champions League, Pallister said, "United were unlucky. They were a dominant force in the league. A few decisions went against us (in the quarterfinal against Spanish giants Real Madrid)."
He also said that goal-line technology "should have happened long time ago".
Talking about the joint collaboration between United and Airtel, which will see three under-16 footballers from India -- Delhi`s Kartikeya Anurag Swarup, Porus Firdaus Shroff from Mumbai and Teja Pavan Kumar of Hyderabad -- train at the famed club, Pallister said it will be an opportunity for the youngsters to showcase their talent.
"With a base of 35 million Manchester United followers in India, we started working with Airtel on the ARS programme last year and were more than plesently surprised with the kind of potential that footballers here possess. We are excited to raise the bar higher this year," Pallister said.
The first edition of the Airtel Rising Stars sent 12 young footballers to train at the Manchester United Soccer School. From the 12, the three most "exceptionally talented" players have been selected to once again travel to Manchester fro training.
Mohit Beotra of Airtel said: "During its first year of inception in 2012, the sheer scale of participation achieved by the ARS program across India showed us a new side of the enthusiasm our country possesses for soccer as a sport."