Fowler joins Indian league

Robbie Fowler, Fabio Cannavaro and Robert Pires are among the elderly stars lined up to inaugurate an Indian soccer league in February.

The competition attempts to emulate the formula and success of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, although selling football to a nation of cricket fanatics might not be straightforward.

As with the IPL, 30 international stars and six top coaches will be auctioned among the club franchises. Some of the names attracted by the tournament, and let’s face it, salaries approaching half a million pounds for seven weeks work, include Portuguese midfielder Maniche, the former Spain striker Fernando Morientes and the Argentinian forward Hernán Crespo.

Bhaswar Goswami, director of the tournament organisers Celebrity Management Group, explained the format. "We have started with six teams this year, all in the state of West Bengal but have already been approached to expand the league to other parts of the country."

Teams will have a maximum of four foreign players and a compulsory six under-21 Indian players in the squads. "We saw the hype and buzz around the players' auction in IPL and feel it can be an equal success," Goswami said. "It's a brilliant concept. We expect owners to make profit much earlier than the IPL franchises."

Bengal is the closest India has to a football hotbed. Crowds of 100,000 regularly attend the local derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. India is currently languishing at 162 in the FIFA rankings and urgently needs a boost in interest in the sport.

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