Mumbai: Indian-origin English footballer Michael Chopra was the first pick, though not the costliest, in the International Players Draft of the Hero Indian Super League, signed on by the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned Kerala Blasters here on Thursday.
Chopra was chosen for USD 58,185 in the first round of the seven-round draft in which all eight franchises of the IPL-style tournament took part.
"Pleased to have been by @sachin_rt`s team #KeralaBlasters in @IndSuperLeague Excited to be working with David James @jamosfoundation," tweeted the 30-year-old England-born Chopra who has plied his trade for various clubs in his home country.
The striker, a product of Newcastle United`s youth system, is currently a free agent after being released by Blackpool.
Kerala Blasters marquee player-cum-manager and former England custodian David James, who has played for big clubs like Liverpool and Manchester City, welcomed the addition of Chopra into the squad.
"Chopra, with his experience of playing in English football, was our first choice as a pick in the draft. He is very excited to be part of the team co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar. He wants to improve Indian football and wants to set up academies," James said.
Chopra was not the costliest player picked up in the first few rounds of the draft. That distinction went to French central defender Bernard Mendy who commanded USD 80,000 and was drafted in by the newly inducted Chennai franchise.
Team Chennai replaced the Sun Group-promoted Bangalore franchise in the ISL which is set to be held tentatively between October 12 and December 20, the organisers announced today ahead of the International Player Draft featuring 49 players.
"The eighth team in the ISL would be Team Chennai represented today by Prashant Agarwal of Play on Skills which has a technical collaboration with Inter Milan in India," said Anupam Dutta, CEO of ISL`s holding company Football Sports Development Private Limited, a joint venture between IMG-Reliance and Star India.
"The owners of the Chennai franchise would be announced later," Dutta added.
Yesterday, Sun Group, IMG Reliance and Star India issued a joint statement that the former was opting out of the ISL on on mutual consent.
"Sun Group arrived at the decision after internal deliberation and discussion, and wish to thank the Indian Super League management for all its support," the joint statement said.
"IMG-Reliance and Star India wish to assure that all the 14 Indian players drafted earlier for Bengaluru franchise will have their representation in Hero ISL," it added. The other seven franchises remain the same. The International Player Draft offered 49 out of 56 players needed for the running of the League and Dutta said the average age of the players was 28.
"The experienced players will form the spine of the clubs. There are five goalkeepers and only one can be picked by a club," said Andy Knee of IMG. Already four clubs had picked seven international players ahead of the draft and their names were announced only during the draft.
He said that ISL has attracted worldwide attention. "ISL has created a buzz worldwide and several calls have been received from players, agents, clubs. Indian club football has not attracted this type of attention before, with all due respect to the I-League," he added.