With the pullout of Bangalore and their Sun Group owners, Chennaiyin FC – the only ‘South Indian’ football team in the league – are late entries, co-owned by Abhishek Bachchan, MS Dhoni and Vita Dani. They will play their home games at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, which has a capacity of 40,000.
They will first face FC Goa on October 15th.
The team isn’t the strongest on paper, especially after failing in their bid to sign Brazilian legend Ronaldinho, but nevertheless, they have a balanced squad that thrives on defense and solid management.
Italian defensive star Marco Materazzi will serve as coach and player, lending his invaluable experience to a squad that will rely on former United/Arsenal player Mikael Silverstre, PSG veteran Bernard Mendy and Brazilian midfield star and marquee signing Elano – who has played for Santos, Shakhtar, Manchester City and Galatasaray, while appearing for Brazil on 50 occasions including the 2010 FIFA World Cup, 2007 and 2011 Copa America Cups.
Captain Bojan Djordjic is a playmaker and former United winger, and is known for his ‘Young Player of the Year’ award in 1999.
But their strength lies in their local Indian players, a group that consists of some of the best strikers and goalkeepers in the country.
27-year old Balwant Singh is the biggest Indian name, known for his dribbling skills and striking force. He scored 17 goals for Churchill Bros in 31 games. He is India’s best currently, and has just played his first match for India, after signing on for Mohun Bagan.
Jeje Lalpekhlua is another Indian forward who can raise his team to another level. He is a Mohun Bagan star, having played for Dempo, Pune after being born in Mizoram. He has scored a hat-trick for India U23 team, and has scored 8 goals for the senior team since making his debut in 2011.
Eduardo Silva Lerma is a youth product of Real Zaragoza, and will be the main foreign striker for Chennaiyin. He has only played for third division Spain sides, but will look to make it big in India.
Abhijit Mondal is an East Bengal veteran, and will be Chennaiyin’s top goalkeeper.
Shilton Paul is a popular Mohun Bagan keeper, and will probably start for half the season.
Harmanjot Singh Khabra, an East Bengal midfielding general, will further lend credibility in a team built on Indian reputations.
Cristian Hidalgo is a former Barcelona winger, who has played for Deportivo (and scored against Real Madrid) and other second division sides.