Mumbai: Team owners of Indian Super League on Sunday said that the high-profile football tournament would herald the beginning of a movement that will revolutionise the game in the country.
The bid winners of the eight franchises of the league, which is scheduled to be held in September-November, was announced here 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.
Prasad Potluri of PVP Ventures, which bagged the Kochi team along with Tendulkar, said his franchise will work to tap talent in Kerala.
"We look forward to developing the Kochi club in the Indian Super League and are proud to partner with one of India`s greatest sportsmen, Sachin Tendulkar, in our efforts. We will tap the potential talent as also channelize the fervor and passion for football across the country to enhance the quality and competitive level of the sport," he said in a release.
"The following and enthusiasm of football in the southern part of the country presents a fertile opportunity for us to execute our plans and leverage global expertise for the development of a world class club."
Sameer Manchanda, chairman of DEN Networks, which won the Delhi franchise, said, "Soccer runs in the blood of every Indian and is a part of our sporting DNA. We see this in the millions of loyal and passionate viewers of FIFA World Cup, the EPL and Champions League. The missing piece was a strong Indian league and ecosystem of state-of-the-art grounds and academies which the youth and soccer lovers could relate to.
"ISL is the beginning of a movement that will revolutionise Indian soccer and uncover the true potential of the sport in our county. DEN Networks is proud to be associated with IMG Reliance and Star India in making the Indian soccer dream a reality. DEN`s roots in Delhi make it the ideal home to spearhead the city`s aspirations to become the champions of Indian soccer."
Spanish top side Atletico Madrid owner Miguel Angel Gil Marin said he was "excited to have won the Kolkata Franchise of the ISL and being the first international team to be directly owning a Club in India".
"We along with our Indian Partners and IMG-Reliance aim to revolutionise football in the country
Kapil Wadhawan, the CMD of Wadhawan Group, co-owners of Pune franchise, said the ISL will provide the platform for Indian footballers to show their talent.
"It is important that we provide India`s youth access to localised sporting action. Football is the world`s most favourite game and it attracts a huge wave of interest amongst us Indians. However, we do not have a domestic forum to bring this interest alive.
"Indian Super League provides this long-awaited platform to polarise India`s football interest. This league would then offer opportunities to millions of Indian youth to bring their dreams to reality. I am personally committed to this endeavour," Wadhawan said.
Ace tennis player Leander Paes supported the ISL and said it will bring people together.
"Football is still my number one sport. I still believe that I can juggle a football with my legs or my body than I can actually hit a top spin backhand... Football to me is one of the biggest games in the world. You have one little leather ball, 12 inches in circumference that looks after the whole world.
Today you have got 3.5 million illegal immigrants in Europe who were aspiring footballers, who either got injured or didn't make it. And those guys are young strapping athletes, who went there with a dream. Football, the league I think will really kind of bring people together.
"It is like an IPL format. They have done it in cricket very successfully. In tennis they have tried to do it. But I think football is really the way to go. It looks after the whole nation," Paes said on the sidelines of Spirit of CCI The South Mumbai Inter Club Triathalon.