Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes will headline an all-star cast when the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier Futsal League kicks off in Chennai on Friday (July 15).
The Manchester United icons join Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho, Argentina goal-getter Hernan Crespo and ex-Real Madrid defender Michel Salgado as the marquee players for the six-city event.
Portuguese playmaker Deco was also set to play but injury has ruled him out. He will be replaced by Falcao, known as the ‘Pele of Futsal’.
The brainchild of former Real Madrid and Barcelona legend Luis Figo, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Cochin, and Goa will compete in two groups in two cities over eight match days and 12 games. The final will be played in Goa on July 24.
Ex-England midfielder Scholes, who won 11 Premier League titles at United, has signed a three-year deal. The 41-year-old said: “Futsal is a fascinating format that has played a pivotal role in developing the skills of some of the greatest football players.
“I have seen Futsal grow not just back home but also across the world, and I have played in a few of those tournaments. Premier Futsal will be a great way to introduce the sport to India. I’m looking forward to meeting the fans across India, who I know are some of the most passionate in the world.”
Futsal is an indoor, five-a-side version of football using smaller balls and hard pitches. Games are 20 minutes per half, played to a stopping clock with time-outs permitted.
Each team will have a squad of seven international futsallers, five Indian and one marquee international football player. The starting line-up must compose of three internationals, one Indian and the one marquee player.
Premier Futsal co-founder Nithyashree Subban added: “Amid all the false allegations and attempts to tarnish the image of Premier Futsal, we are proud to kickstart our inaugural edition as scheduled on July 15.
“It was a strategic decision to host the league in just two cities; Chennai and Goa, and with six franchises. We have managed to secure signatures of players who are legends of the game and will be seen playing in India in a few days.
“As Premier Futsal Management, we are committed to grow Futsal here in India and will expand the league to other cities in the future.”
Securing the likes of Giggs and company is seen as a massive coup. Giggs, 42, has only just left United as an assistant manager to the recently-sacked Louis Van Gaal after 24 years at the club. He is the most decorated player in Premier League history.
Ronaldinho is one of the world’s true greats. The 36-year-old former two-time World Player of the Year made his name showing off his skills for Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris St Germain, and was a key part of Brazil’s 2002-winning World Cup team.