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11 December 2023

New India league back on track


A new football league in the Indian state of West Bengal was on Monday given permission to seek the transfer of high-profile foreign players, bringing relief to the organisers.

Former Argentina star Hernan Crespo, Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro and Robbie Fowler of England are among six semi-retired world stars due to play in the Premier League Soccer (PLS).

The All-India Football Federation (AIFF) had last week suspended the PLS from taking part in Fifa's Transfer Matching System because the six new teams were not affiliated to the sport's governing body.

But the AIFF relented on Monday after the Indian Football Association (IFA) - the name of the body running the sport in West Bengal - submitted documents on the status of the teams.

"We received an e-mail from the IFA that it will abide by all the relevant Fifa rules," said AIFF vice-president Subrata Dutta.

AIFF chief Praful Patel, a former federal minister, said his body backed the league.

"It is a good initiative," said Patel. "We just want to ensure good governance and helped the tournament to follow a right path."

The new league, to be played across football-crazy West Bengal, will start on March 24 with the final on May 6.

The AIFF has refused to allow Indian players from the official domestic I-League to join, saying the PLS was essentially a state-level tournament.

That means the foreign stars would be playing alongside unknown district-level players in the seven-week tournament.

The teams, owned by business houses in West Bengal, spent heavily on securing world stars at an auction in Kolkata on January 30.

Crespo was picked up for an annual salary of $840,000 and Cannavaro for $830,000, while Robert Pires of France fetched $800,000, Nigerian Jay Jay Okocha got $550,000 and Fowler was sold for $530,000.