There might have been a lot of doubts and plenty of controversy as well, but Premier Futsal kicks off on Friday with the opening matches -- Chennai vs Mumbai and Goa vs Kolkata -- at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Tamil Nadu's capital. With the AIFF refusing to recognise the tournament, the tournament might be light on high-profile domestic players, but there is no shortage of renowned faces from the international circuit, with Ronaldinho, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Hernan Crespo and Michel Salgado making their presence felt.
With football a sport that is still finding its feet in India, despite being the most popular sport in the world, it remains to be seen how the Indian audience react to futsal, a game that is played in a much smaller pitch, is much shorter in terms of time and is more about skills than strategy – matches in Premier Futsal will be 40 minutes, with four ten-minute quarters.
As interesting as the Euro 2016 tournament might have been, it was considerably low on attacking quality, but when it comes to futsal, there should be no such worry, especially with Ronaldinho, Scholes, Giggs, Crespo, Salgado and Falcao – no, not that one – ready to showcase their skills.
"Amidst 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 here in Chennai," a defiant Nithyashree Subban, one of the Premier Futsal co-founders, who have Virat Kohli as one of the brand ambassadors, told the tournament's official website. "It was a strategic decision to host the league in just 2 cities -- Chennai and Goa, and with 6 franchises.
"We have managed to secure signatures of players who are the 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 we will expand the league to other cities in the future editions."
Manchester United legend Scholes, though, believes futsal is a good way to bring youngsters into the sport, considering some of the world's greatest ever players started off by playing this version of the game.
"I am really excited to play futsal after a long time," Scholes was quoted as saying by the Times of India. "I believe if we can put together an entertaining season, it will encourage the youngsters to take up the sport as a profession. That's our aim."
Where to Watch Live
The opening day of Premier Futsal will have two matches – Chennai vs Mumbai and Goa vs Kolkata – with the first match beginning at 7 p.m. IST. Sony Six/HD will show the two matches live in India, with coverage set for a 6.30 p.m. IST start. The online live streaming option is on Sonyliv.