With India's first ever international football league only a month away, the Indian Football Association (the sport's governing body in the state of West Bengal and the association in charge of the mega-event), recently met with the six franchisees who will be involved, asking that they prepare their home grounds. The IFA added that the venues would have to comply with the regulations and offer the facilities outlined by FIFA guidelines.
The 35 league matches (including the knockouts) will be held at the ground of the six participating clubs - the Kolkata Camelians, the Barasat Euro Musketeers, the Durgapur Vox Champions, the Howrah Manchester, the Bengal Tuskers (Siliguri) and Haldia (an as yet unnamed team).
Here is a little background of the six venues and their association with football...
Kolkata: This city, previously known as Calcutta, is the capital of the state of West Bengal. More importantly, this is a city whose people have always been passionate about football. It is also home to two of the country's biggest football clubs - Kingfisher East Bengal and Mohan Bagan. The people of the city have seen some of the biggest names in football, in person, at the Salt Lake Stadium nearby. The list includes German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn (in 2008) and Argentinean forward Lionel Messi (in 2011)... the list also includes the legendary Brazilian striker Pele (in 1977).
The Salt Lake stadium, the second largest non-auto racing stadium in the world, boasts a capacity of 120,000 and will be the Kolkata Camelians' home ground.
Barasat: Established in the 1600s, Barasat is the oldest town in West Bengal. It lies on the fringes of the city of Kolkata (approx. 90km away). Soccer has always been a huge attraction for the local people here, where lots of football matches take place. The town is home to the Barasat District Sports Stadium, which can seat well over 20,000 and will be the home ground of the Barasat Euro Musketeers.
Durgapur: Located about 160km from Kolkata, Durgapur is famous for its steel manufacturing plant (the largest in the state) and a host of football tournaments! The latter includes the All-India Inter-Academy Tournament - one of the biggest platforms in the country for aspiring footballers - which was organized by the Mohun Bagan-SAIL Football Academy in 2011. The city's Shaheed Bhagat Singh Stadium, one of the best football stadiums in the district, will be the Durgapur Vox Champions' home stadium.
Howrah: Located on the banks of the Hoogli River, Howrah is also sometimes referred to as the twin city of Kolkata. The industrial city is connected to Kolkata via four bridges, including the famous Howrah Bridge (now known as Rabindra Setu). The Howrah Municipal Corporation Stadium with a capacity of 10,000 will be the home ground of Howrah Manchester.
Siliguri: Located in the northern part of West Bengal and referred to as the "Gateway of North East India", Siliguri borders three countries - Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Moreover, administratively, it falls under two districts - Darjeeling and New Jalpaiguri. The world-famous "Toy Train" (a World Heritage artifact) runs from Siliguri to the hills of Darjeeling. Football has always been a favorite sport among the residents (mostly Nepalese and Bengali) here. In 2009, when Bayern Munch played a friendly against the Mayor's XI at the Kanchenjungha Stadium (which, incidentally will be the Bengal Tuskers' home ground), in Siliguri, the club invited six local players to their training camp in Germany.
Haldia: One of the primary sea ports in West Bengal, Haldia is located about 50km southwest of that city. An industrial city with many factories, the town is bordered by the River Haldi (a tributary of the Ganges). It is also home to the Indian Football Association - Country Sports Foundation (IFA-CSF) Football Academy, where youngsters are often seen training despite scorching temperatures in the region. The Durgachak Stadium, with a capacity of 8,000, will be the home ground of the Haldia franchise.