Former Newcastle United striker Michael Chopra was picked by the Kerala Blasters, co-owned by cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar, in an international draft for the upcoming Indian Super League on Thursday.
A total of 49 foreign players will be drafted during the session for the eight-franchise league, which is slated to run from October to December. Seven players have been directly recruited by the teams.
“When the drafts came up, the first name that caught our attention was that of Chopra,” former England goalkeeper David James, marquee player and manager of the Kerala team, told reporters.
“We immediately decided to have him and are happy to have him in this team.”Chopra, who has also played for a host of other Premier League clubs, was the only English player in the draft, which was held at a Mumbai hotel overlooking the Arabian Sea.
Former Manchester United midfielder Bojan Djordjic has joined other marquee names such as former Juventus striker David Trezeguet and former Arsenal winger Freddie Ljungberg in the first season of the football league.
Strict rules apply to player rosters, with each team required to have one marquee player, seven foreigners and 14 Indians, four of whom must be from the city in which the franchise is based.
Chennai-based Sun Group had bagged the Bangalore team but opted out at the last minute.
Replacing them will be a team from Southern Indian city of Chennai to be run by Play on Skills, which has a technical collaboration with Inter Milan in India, organisers said.
The league 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.
Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of the ISL franchises.
Atletico and former India captain Ganguly were part of the consortium that won the bid for the Kolkata team.
Styled on cricket’s cash-rich Indian Premier League and backed by the country’s soccer governing body (AIFF), the league also has movie industry involvement.
Leading Bollywood actors Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and John Abraham are also co-owners of franchises.