When the Indian players' auction and the draft for the second edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) starts on Friday, it is likely to be attended by two World Cup winners, one of the greatest to have never won it, a footballer who was part of the best England team in that competition since 1966 and a man whose influence on Indian cricket is growing years after his 'Dadagiri' ended on the field.
Marco Materazzi, Zico and David Platt could be joined by Antonio Lopez Habas, who coached Atletico de Kolkata to the first ISL title, Sourav Ganguly, one of Habas' bosses, and Roberto Carlos. Even factoring in the absence of Nicolas Anelka (Mumbai City FC), Peter Taylor (Kerala Blasters) and Cesar Farias (North East United FC) that's quite a line-up.
When the domestic draft happened in July 2014, two men with a strong football connect in India were the only foreigners present. Jose Barreto has since moved from Atletico de Kolkata but Trevor James Morgan will again be on the Kerala Blasters' table.
Somewhat like the league is the story of Jackiechand Singh. From near-obscurity to going into the auction with a base price of Rs 20 lakh, it has been some year for this 23-year-old. "A year ago, all I was hoping for was a chance to play in the I-League. Not only have I played in the I-League, I also got a chance to play for India. Now, the stint in the ISL would be the cherry on the cake," he said in Mumbai on Thursday.
"I have tried to keep the financial aspect out of my head. But I come from a humble background and such sums are not routine for me. (Singh's father is a small-time farmer and mother ran a small tea store). With the money I have earned from the I-League, I bought a plot in Imphal and started building a house. Hopefully, I can now complete it."
Platt, the FC Pune City coach, said he would have been frustrated without the assistance of the Indians in his coaching staff and barring Morgan that is how it is for the rest of the teams as well. "The auction gives you a little more chance in the sense that you can keep lifting your hand but in the draft you may not get your targets. But if you spend too much in the auction, you can't buy good foreign players," said the midfielder whose dream goal took England to the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup.
Platt's team has the maximum purse of Rs 15.5 crore followed by Kerala Blasters, Delhi Dynamos and Mumbai City FC but that does not mean the battle for Sunil Chhetri will be restricted to them. That's because most franchises will be looking to buy two Indians from the auction so that they import two in the additional players' quota.
Having scored most of India's goals in the recent past, Chhetri will be the cynosure. "I don't know where I will play but I do know whoever buys me will have certain expectations of me," said Chhetri.
Dynamos eye Chhetri
Speculation is rife on where Chhetri will end up. Delhi Dynamos, on Thursday, confirmed Chhetri is among their plans."I agree, Sunil is the face of Delhi, so is Robin (Singh). We'll put our best efforts to get them, we will fight," said Prashant Agarwal. "I understand, with Sunil and Robin, there is a local connect, and we will do our best to work on that."