New Delhi: In a bid to awaken the "sleeping giant" of world football, FIFA President Sepp Blatter has called India "another market" for the beautiful game and endorsed the upcoming franchise-based Indian Super League (ISL).
Blatter, during a visit to the country in 2007, had termed India a "sleeping giant and called for wide-scale reforms and greater professionalism".
The advent of ISL has given Blatter reasons to hope.
"Football has to keep on spreading throughout the world. We have seen success with the professional league in China, but in September I can inform you that we will have a professional soccer league in India," Blatter was quoted as saying in the magazine `SportsBusiness International`.
"This is another market for football - not a financial market - but another market to grow our sport. There are 1.3 billion people in India, that`s 1.3 billion people who want to play football now," added the head of world football`s governing body.
"Obviously, they like cricket and it`s a good sport; let them play it, but it`s not as good as football," Blatter went on to say while addressing more than 400 people at the Master Alumni Association in Rio de Janeiro during the World Cup last month.
ISL, organized by IMG-Reliance and backed by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), will be played among eight clubs -- Atletico de Kolkata, Kerala Blasters FC, Delhi Dynamos FC, NorthEast United FC, Team Pune, Team Mumbai, Team Goa and Team Bengaluru.
The league will feature 22 players in each team, with 10 foreign players, including a marquee player. Each franchise will also include eight domestic players and four local players from the catchment area in the under-23 category.
The league has already signed established names such as Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg, Joan Capdevila, David Trezeguet and Bojan Djordjic to name a few.