Inaugural professional football league kicks off Nov 24


New Delhi : The inaugural professional football league has been scheduled to kick-off Nov 24 with Dempo Sports Club facing local rivals Salgaocar at the Nehru Stadium in Goa.

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After much dilly-dallying, the long overdue professional league, earlier due to start Nov 23, has been delayed by a day due to Union minister and All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi’s travel schedule.

“The AIFF president will be in Goa during that period because of the film festival. It would be easier for him to attend the inaugural match in Goa,” disclosed an AIFF official.

Dasmunsi, Union minister for Information and Broadcasting and Parliamentary Affair, will be visiting Goa to inaugurate the 38th International Film Festival of India.

The AIFF official said that the inaugural matches of the erstwhile National Football League (NFL), now replaced by the Professional League, had always been played in either Kolkata or Delhi, but for a change the federation decided to begin the tournament in western India.

Though yet to announce the tournament’s full schedule, the AIFF official said Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will start their campaign at home. Mohun Bagan will take on JCT Nov 25 while East Bengal face Viva Kerala the following day.

The first leg of the pro league is expected to run uninterrupted till February, because the national team has a preparation camp before the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup in Chinese Taipei Mar 1-16.

National coach Bob Houghton has set his sights on the AFC Challenge Cup that, according to him, will help the 145th placed India to improve its FIFA ranking.

The AFC Challenge Cup is meant for the middle and lower ranked Asian teams and the winner qualifies directly for the 2011 Asian Cup finals.

The AIFF is expected to make a formal announcement about the Pro League programme only after the India-Lebanon 2010 World Cup qualifier second leg in Chennai Sunday.