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Football | International

Hernan Crespo © Reuters Images

Proposed Indian league fails to take off



A proposed Indian professional football league that was to feature the likes of former Argentina striker Hernan Crespo and Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro, has been scrapped owing to logistic problems.

The five-team tournament planned on the lines of the successful franchise-based Indian Premier League cricket tournament was announced with much fanfare by the Indian Football Association but things failed to move after a players' auction in January last year.

"The main reasons for not pursuing the project further were logistics like the unavailability of stadia and the backing out of some of the franchises for commercial reasons," IFA secretary-general Utpal Ganguly told The Associated Press. "Besides, the timing of the league was not suitable for foreign players."

The league was originally planned for February-March last year before being postponed indefinitely.

Indian football has always had a problem of infrastructure with former coach Bog Houghton of England citing as one of the main reasons for the lack of progress in the game. India is currently placed 166th in the Fifa rankings.

Anilava Chatterjee of private firm Grey Mind, which had bought one of the five franchise teams, said the problem lay with getting stadiums in smaller towns of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal.

"We were told there were problems in getting grounds, especially in the smaller districts and the project was thus aborted," Chatterjee told AP.

This tournament was being seen as a chance to supplement the effort of national body All India Football Federation and its own competition called the I-League.

The AIFF has managed to get in big money into the game. IMG-Reliance - a partnership between IMG Worldwide and Indian company Reliance Industries Ltd. - signed a 15-year deal with AIFF in 2010 worth $140 million for all commercial rights to promote and market football in the country of 1.2 billion people.

Foreign clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich have also been organising activities in a bid to increase their presence in India.

Event management firm Celebrity Management Group, which was a partner in the league project, though is contemplating a different league at some point in time.

"We were organising the tournament on behalf of the IFA," CMG executive director Bhaswar Goswami told AP. "After the initial planning, IFA decided not to go ahead with the project. But we are planning another project together, almost on the same lines."

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