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Indian Super League begins with glittering promise of new dawn


The new order in Indian football announced its arrival with a bang on Sunday! With its exciting freshness, well-packaged avatar and a never-seen-before razzmatazz, the mass entertainment of Bollywood and football, riding on Indian cricket's shoulder, descended on the illuminated Salt Lake Stadium to set the ball rolling for Indian Super League.

A restive crowd of 70,000 swayed to Bollywood beats in presence of top football stars from across the globe, corporate czars, politicians, filmstars and a host of other luminaries from different walks of life. And if the opening ceremony was anything to go by, the new league and perhaps through it Indian football, scaled new, noisy and never-before heights.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee started the proceedings. And it was left for Nita Ambani, chairperson of the ISL, to strike the right chord when she officially opened it before the world. Speaking in Bengali, she said: "Ami Indian Super League-er shubho suchona korchi... Let the ISL be opened." The stadium, filled to capacity, accepted it with a thunderous roar.

Throughout the 40-minute programme, it was show-stopping and show-starter in equal measure. The 500 odd well-choreographed troops danced to the tune of percussionist Sivamani and Bikram Ghosh, changing their colour and character, from bihu to kathakali - the local dance forms where the eight franchisees are based.

With Bollywood diva Priyanka Chopra leading the way, the 45-minute show that preceded the opening match between hosts Atletico de Kolkata and Mumbai City FC left spectators craving for more. It was perhaps fitting that the new world challenge the old at a place which represented the past glory of Indian football. The small clipping of Indian football in its barefooted days of 1950s and 1960s flashed across the giant screens so briefly that it hardly caught the crowd's attention. However, nobody appeared to be complaining as the evening was all about the celebration of the new.

Take for examples those moments when Atletico de Kolkata co-owner Sourav Ganguly entered the ground the team's marquee player Luis Garcia or Sachin Tendulkar accompanying Kerala Blasters' icon player David James on to the stage. Amid the collection of celebrities, the biggest cheers of the night were reserved for former cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar as the Indian Super League kicked off its inaugural edition with an opening ceremony that was high on glam quotient.
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