As the Indian Super League’s Big Two — Robert Pires and Alessandro Del Piero — stepped towards the just-launched, generously sized silverware, the photographers went into a tizzy. Their faces hidden by their cameras, the lensmen stepped on each other toes in search of the perfect frame while shouting requests at the men on the dias. They wanted them to smile, wave, turn left, look right, do the ‘V’, lift the Cup, all that at the same time.
This sudden pandemonium would make Pires and Del Piero — though veterans of such trophy photo-ops — freeze at first but later left them amused. The global superstars were getting a first-hand, first-time feel of the riotous excitement that is associated with packed sporting arenas around India. In the days to come, the promoters of this ambitious league will hope for an encore of Sunday’s minor chaos when the stalwarts take field.
The other marquee players on the stage also seemed anxious of the surprises that they would encounter on this exotic Indian journey. Though rivals, they were all in the same boat. Having matched their wits against each other in other leagues, there was a comforting familiarity between the stars dressed in their respective franchise colours.
They even took digs at each other. Kerala Blasters’ player and manager David James playfully joked that Mumbai City FC star Fredrik Ljungberg would not be able to beat him in goal, nor would he win. Pires was asked how long his friendship with his former Arsenal teammate would last, to which the Frenchman laughed as he replied, “It stops now.”
The non-English speakers — North East United’s Joan Capdevila and Pune City FC’s David Trezeguet — seemed oblivious of the proceedings. Though, Capdevila did exchange pleasantaries with Atletico de Kolkata star Luis Garcia.
Before the players went on the stage, a promotional video, starring franchise owners — Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Saurav Ganguly, Abhishek Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor and John Abraham — was aired. As of now the owners are certainly more famous than the footballers on stage. Maybe, things will change at the end of the first season.