Zee Media Bureau
Mumbai: Finally, the good times are here for Indian football. The inaugural edition of Indian Super League (ISL) was officially launched on Thursday in the presence of All India Football President (AIFF) Praful Patel, team owners and hosts of other celebrities.
The function was hosted by Mark Bolton and Mayanti Langar, and the duo invited team owners to signed a pledge to promote the sport in India. FC Goa was represented by Bollywood Varun Dhawan, Delhi Dynamos by Sameer Manchanda, Atletico de Kolkata by Utsav Parekh, North East United by John Abraham, Team Chennai by Abhishek Bachchan, Pune FC by Kapil Wadhawan, Team Mumbai by Ranbir Kapoor and Kochi Blasters by Sachin Tendulkar.
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) August 28, 2014
Giving a key note address, AIFF president hailed the ISL as the first tournament of its kind which is approved by the sports world governing body FIFA. However, the overwhelming theme of the function was on the grass-root development of football in India. Calling on team owners and organiser of the tournament, Patel said, "Together we will work on building up football right from the grassroots." His views was shared by HeroMotoCorp CEO Pawan Munjal. Hero Motocorp, the World's single largest two wheeler motorcycle manufacturer, is the title sponsor of the tournament.
The tournament will kick-start on October 12 at Kolkata's historic Salt Lake Stadium. In the opening fixture, Atletico de Kolkata will take on Team Mumbai. The eight-team tournament will have some of the brightest Indian talents playing along-side established international players. All the eight teams have already signed their marquee players.
Former Barcelona star, Luis Garcia will represent the Kolkata franchise, while France's World Cup winner David Trezeguet has tied up with Pune. Former England goal-keeper and Spain's World Cup winner Joan Capedevilla are with Kochi and North East franchises respectively. Besides, Ricki Herbert, Harm van Veldhoven, Franco Colomba and Antonio Lopez Habas have been roped in to manage the teams.
Adding that much needed marketing and promotional boosts to these franchises are some of India's hottest screen stars like Ranbir Kapoor for Mumbai, John Abraham for North East and Salman Khan for Pune. But the biggest inspiration for anyone is the presence of India's greatest sportsman Sachin Tendulkar. The Little Master is with Kochi franchise, while his contemporary and batting great Saurav Ganguly is associated with the Kolkata franchise.