I-League still developing football in India
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Indian clubs can't match the sums of money that have recently taken Didier Drogba to Shanghai and Alessandro Del Piero to Sydney, or the cashed-up domestic cricket teams that have the biggest stars in their sport flocking to the subcontinent.
What they do have is a vast population of potential fans, a globally popular game and a burgeoning domestic league.
For the sixth season of the country's professional league, champion Dempo has recruited former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Rohan Ricketts; Prayag United signed Carlos Hernandez, the player of the 2009-10 season in Australia's A-League and a member of Costa Rica's 2006 World Cup team; and second-tier club Dodsal FC has been linked to former Manchester United and Arsenal star Mikael Silvestre.
Imported players are still crucial to the development of the sport in a country of 1 billion-plus people. Over the years, the All India Football Federation has relied on government funding _ and even handouts from the Board of Control for Cricket in India _ to sustain a professional domestic competition.
Africans, especially Nigerians, still make up the majority of imports in the I-League and there are always a smattering of Brazilians but as well as Ricketts and Hernandez, this season there are players from, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Lebanon, Philippines, North Korea and Afghanistan in the league.
I-League CEO Sunardo Dhar believes that this is a step in the right direction as football strives to prosper in a country virtually obsessed with cricket.
``These are big players and big signings and it is a good thing for India,'' Dhar told The Associated Press. ``Any positive news is obviously good. The money that Indian players receive is obviously good and so it is not a big surprise that good players from overseas are coming in and playing. Carlos Hernandez refused three A-League clubs in Australia to come to India.''
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