Indian football league kicks off

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Indian Football Team

© Aneek Biswas CC SA 3.0

India, famous for its love of cricket, has finally embraced the ‘beautiful game’ with the launch of the Indian Super League (ISL) to replace a network of mini-leagues that previously served its largest men’s football clubs.

Sepp Blatter, president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), once described India as “the sleeping giant of football” – the game has a lot of grassroots support, but a low profile, compared to cricket.

At the end of 2014, the new league kicked off with Atlético de Kolkata vs Mumbai City FC at the Salt Lake Stadium, which saw Atlético de Kolkata win 2-0.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was quoted at the event as saying: “Football can conquer the world!” He watched the game alongside national celebrities, international footballers and plenty of locals, who had raced to support the opening of the games.

The introduction of India’s first national football league in October 2014 has created much enthusiasm from investors and international footballers. Supporters include former footballers Luis Garcia, from Spain, and Freddie Ljungberg, from Sweden, who both came out of retirement to play for ISL teams. Peter Reid, former manager of top English teams Manchester City and Sunderland, is now managing Mumbai City FC.

Many hope the upsurge in the sport’s popularity will see India’s fortunes improve on the international stage, too. The men’s national team are 158th in FIFA’s rankings, between Thailand and Puerto Rico, while the women’s team ranks 53rd – just above Paraguay.


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