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India to Begin Eight-Team Super League to Tap Soccer Interest

India will begin an eight-team Super League in January to tap growing interest in soccer in the nation of 1.2 billion people, organizers said.

Mumbai-based Reliance Industries Ltd., the owner of the world’s biggest refinery complex; broadcaster Star India Pvt. Ltd., a unit of Rupert Murdoch’s New York-based 21st Century Fox Inc.; and sports agency IMG Worldwide Inc. own equal stakes in the venture, IMG said in an e-mailed news release.

The competition is scheduled to begin Jan. 18 and will run through March with another phase of games planned for later in 2014. Each city’s team will have a marquee player, with a roster made up of talent from India and other countries. The aim is to help India, which is currently 154th in FIFA’s world rankings, qualify for the 2026 World Cup, according to the statement.

“Our objective is nothing short of creating a movement around football in India,” Uday Shankar, Star India’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. “We want to put India on the global map.”

The model is similar to cricket’s Indian Premier League, which began in 2008 and attracted the world’s best players to compete in a six-week Twenty20 tournament. The Mumbai Indians won this year’s final in May.

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