Mumbai: The Indian Super League (ISL), the first of its kind glamorous football league in India, was launched here Thursday by star team owners Sachin Tendulkar, John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor and brand ambassador Varun Dhawan who promised to popularise the game and invest in the grassroot development of the sport in the country.
The promoters of ISL, IMG-Reliance and Star India, unveiled all eight team owners, who signed a replica of a football in a symbolic gesture to promote the game. The league’s logo was also unveiled during the ceremony.
The inaugural season of the Hero ISL will be played from Oct 12 to Dec 20 in eight Indian cities. Former India captain Sourav Ganguly, co-owner of Athletico de Kolkata, and Bollywood star Salman Khan, who is a co-promoter of the Pune franchise, however, were absent due to their personal commitments.
Nita Ambani, founding chairperson of Football Sports Development (FSD) which owns ISL, thanked team owners for coming forward and supporting the sport.
“As a teacher I have learned all about football from my kids and students. Last year when we went to Uttarakhand for Reliance Foundation relief work, I asked the kids what do you want. They told me ‘ma’am please give us boots and footballs’. That is the passion for the game in the country,” said Nita.
“It is a momentous day for us as we set ourselves in building a grand coalition among all stakeholders to develop football in the country and take it to deserving space in Indian sports.”
Dhawan, who is the brand ambassador of FC Goa, which is co-owned by Videocon Group and I-League side Dempo, said his team will play an attacking brand of football.
“Who doesn’t like Goa. You will be a fool not to like Goa. We have the two giants of Indian football in Goa — Dempo and Salgaocar. Goa will be playing an attacking brand of football. Watch out for us,” said Dhawan.
John, who is the co-owner of NorthEast United FC, said his club would boost the sport in the north eastern states, which is now a nursery for Indian football.
“I played A division football. I wished I had continued. But I had to chose between football and studies. The north east is now the hotbed for football. But unfortunately north east is not connected with other parts of India. But NorthEast United FC will connect the north eastern states with rest of India,” said John.