A new football league in the Indian state of West Bengal featuring semi-retired world stars has been postponed after encountering "many problems", organisers have announced without elaborating.
The franchise-based Premier Soccer League (PLS), based along the lines of cricket's popular Indian Premier League, was due to be played across six venues in West Bengal from 24 March to 6 May. Former Argentina star Hernan Crespo, Italy's FIFA World Cup™-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro, Robert Pires of France and England's Robbie Fowler were among the stars signed to play alongside district-level players.
"We will announce the new dates soon," said Utpal Ganguli, secretary of the Indian Football Association, the name of the body running the sport in West Bengal. "There are many problems which need to be sorted out. We are confident the tournament will be held in West Bengal. But for now, it is not starting on March 24."
Ganguli declined to spell out the reasons for the delay, but opposition from state authorities and shortage of good quality pitches have been widely blamed. Six local business groups that bid successfully for a team to play in the PLS had splurged around $7 million to buy the world stars at an auction last month.
Crespo was picked up for $840,000 and Cannavaro for $830,000, while former Arsenal star Pires fetched $800,000, Nigerian Jay Jay Okocha got $550,000 and Fowler was sold for $530,000. The PLS has faced numerous hurdles since the ambitious project was announced a month ago.
The tournament was to be held in the state capital of Kolkata and five district towns of Howrah, Durgapur, Siliguri, Barasat and Haldia.