Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian soccer league set to kick off later this year, organisers said on Sunday. La Liga leaders Atletico and former India captain Ganguly were part of the consortium that won the bid for the Kolkata team in the Indian Super League (ISL), proposed to start in mid-September and run till the end of November. (Click here for latest on Football)
The ISL is bank-rolled by India's Reliance Industries, controlled by the country's richest man Mukesh Ambani, Rupert Murdoch's Star India and sports management group IMG. "I am very excited to have won the Kolkata Franchise of the ISL and being the first international team to be directly owning a club in India we along with our Indian Partners and IMG-Reliance aim to revolutionise football in the country," Miguel Angel Gil Marin, the owner of Atletico, said in a statement.
Former batting great Tendulkar bagged the Kochi team with PVP Ventures, a company which has interests in real estate, media and also finances film projects. "I will always remain a sportsman at heart who is keen to positively impact the sporting fabric of the nation," Tendulkar, who retired from cricket last November, said.
"The Indian Super League presents a great opportunity to develop a platform for the youngsters to learn and enhance their talent to develop into outstanding players.
"With the Kochi club, we will strive to 'score our goals' and play a part in developing the game of football across the country."
The league, styled on cricket's cash-rich Indian Premier League and backed by the country's soccer governing body (AIFF), will also have a fair presence of the film industry.
Leading Bollywood actors Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and John Abraham are co-owners of the Mumbai, Pune and Guwahati franchises, respectively.
Chennai-based Sun Group, which also owns the IPL's Hyderabad franchise, bagged the Bangalore team, cable TV distribution company DEN Networks won the bid for Delhi while the Goa team went to a consortium including Indian conglomerate Videocon Industries.
Local media have reported that the ISL will see some big-name international players and coaches take the field though the organisers were yet to announce any signings.