ISL 3: Stage Set For Gala Opening In East

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Guwahati: A carnival atmosphere will fill the air when the opening ceremony of India Super League 3 celebrates the cultural diversity and spirit of the eight sisters before familiar foes Northeast United FC and Kerala Blasters resume their rivalry on the pitch here on Saturday.

For long the hub for producing and nurturing talent who ply their trade in the ISL, the I-League and the Indian national sides, the region has been rewarded with the opening ceremony by the tournament organisers.

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It would not be an overstatement to say that the ISL’s attempt at being recognised as the premier football tournament of India has been a success. This is largely due to the several high-profile signings over the past two years, and the emergence of new talent.

Former Atletico Madrid and Manchester United star Diego Forlan, Brazilian World Cup-winner Lucio, ex-Chelsea midfielder Florent Malouda and former Liverpool and AS Roma star John Arne Riise are some of the big names leading various franchises in this edition of the tournament.

Besides the cultural part, act 1 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium will feature a bevy of Bollywood stars gyrating to hindi chartbusters. Bollywood heartthrobs Alia Bhatt, Jacqueline Fernandes and Varun Dhawan, along with about 500 performers are ready to rock the stadium in the short, yet spectacular, 30-minute show.

NorthEast United owner John Abraham today accompanied ISL Founder and Chairperson Nita Ambani to the state capital ahead of the much-awaited opening ceremony. Mumbai City FC co-owner Ranbir Kapoor, Kerala Blasters FC co-owner Sachin Tendulkar and Chennaiyin FC co-owner Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be reaching tomorrow.

The local flavour will be added by the famed Shillong Chamber Choir who have enthralled audiences across the globe. Rio Olympics silver medallist PV Sindhu will be another star attraction at the gala event.

As far as football is concerned, both Northeast United and Kerala Blasters missed out on qualification to the semi-finals of the league last year and will be eager to go that extra mile this year.

While the northeasters narrowly missed the bus by coming fifth, Kerala Blasters, runner-up of the inaugural edition in 2014, finished with the wooden spoon in the eight-team franchise-based league.

PTI

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