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    AIFF invites top European clubs ahead of Dubai meet

    AIFF has invited clubs like Manchester United, FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich to attend its ambitious meeting with probable investors.

    New Delhi: The AIFF has invited top European clubs like Manchester United, FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich to attend its ambitious meeting with probable investors -- in Dubai on March 31 -- and provide technical expertise to the two future corporate-owned sides in I-League.

    The All India Football Federation is eyeing investors based in the the Middle East to establish football teams, which will get direct entry into the I-League in return for their investment in infrastructure and youth development.

    "We have written to them, including the usual big names, inviting them to attend the meeting," a top AIFF official told PTI on condition of anonymity. "There are two ways -- they can either tie up with a top club who can provide them technical assistance or enter as a standalone entity," the official added.

    Sources close to the national football body claimed that some of the clubs might turn up for the meeting, which will be attended by AIFF president Praful Patel, general secretary Kushal Das, other top officials besides probable investors.

    The federation's ambitious plan to rope in at least two corporate-owned sides into the I-League received good initial response with 30 companies, including IPL teams owners Sahara Group and GMR, turning up in a meeting with the AIFF officials here earlier this month.

    The open house meeting at the AIFF Headquarters was chaired by Patel, who later expressed happiness at the initial response of the corporate houses at the initiative.

    "It was a very satisfying meeting and the response from the corporate sector was very good. We are hopeful that we could find at least two corporate teams to play in the next I-League season (2013-14)," he had said after the meeting which lasted more than two hours.

    Besides Sahara Group and GMR, who own IPL teams Pune Warriors and Delhi Daredevils, respectively, the other corporates include Pune-based Venky's, the owners of former English Premier League side Blackburn Rovers, and Dubai-based Dodsal Group and DSK Shivajians from Pune.