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Buzz over Sourav winning the bid

Calcutta/ Delhi: Will Sourav Ganguly be the owner of the Calcutta franchise of the much-hyped Indian Super League? While no official confirmation was available till Friday night, Sourav’s home city has been abuzz that the former India captain will indeed win the bid.

A senior Calcutta-based All India Football Federation (AIFF) official strongly indicated to that effect. The official announcement, however, will only be done on Sunday.

It was also learnt that Shah Rukh Khan and Abhishek Bachchan probably lost out in the bidding process. Both of them had reportedly shown interest, but could not win the bid.

An independent professional company, Ernst and Young, has been appointed to examine the bids and the process will be completed over the weekend.

The tournament is scheduled for September.

The IPL-style football league, organised by IMG-R who are the marketing and broadcasting partners of the AIFF, is expected to have eight city-based teams. The league will be held in association with Star India.

The fact that Sourav is interested in the franchise has been in the air for a while. But since, in this age of transparency, the organisers opted for a closed-bid process, speculations have been taking the centre stage.

Names of Bollywood actors and cricket stars, including the iconic Sachin Tendulkar, as possible owners have been doing the rounds for a while now.

Each franchise is likely to have eight to 10 foreign players.

Senior AIFF officials, however, feel that the success of the ISL would mainly depend on the recruitment of foreign players. “Initially, we heard the names of retired international stars like Hernan Crespo, Michael Owen, Thierry Henry and Dwight Yorke. The organisers have claimed that they could be roped in for the ISL. But unless the entire list of players is revealed, the success of the ISL could not be guaranteed,” an official said.

The League has the backing of AIFF. This is being seen as an unrivalled football championship in the country once called the “sleeping giant” by Fifa president Sepp Blatter. The League is also being promoted as a channel through which the standard of Indian players can be improved through close association of international stars.

The bids for the franchise closed on March 27. It was reported that around 18 to 20 bidders had put their money on ISL, either individually or forming a consortium.