Football: Freddie Ljungberg injury deals blow to new Indian league opener

Mumbai City FC striker Fredrik Ljungberg attends the unveiling of the Indian Super League (ISL) football tournament trophy in Mumbai on Oct 5, 2014. India's ambitious new football league was dealt a blow ahead of its very first match when Ljungb
Mumbai City FC striker Fredrik Ljungberg attends the unveiling of the Indian Super League (ISL) football tournament trophy in Mumbai on Oct 5, 2014. India's ambitious new football league was dealt a blow ahead of its very first match when Ljungberg was ruled out with a calf injury on Saturday.  -- PHOTO: AFP

KOLKATA (AFP) - India's ambitious new football league was dealt a blow ahead of its very first match when Mumbai City star Freddie Ljungberg was ruled out with a calf injury on Saturday.

Manager Peter Reid, the former Sunderland and Manchester City boss, said he was not prepared to risk 37-year-old ex-Arsenal midfielder in Sunday's opener against Atletico De Kolkata.

"He still feels his calf a little bit so I'm not going to take any chances," Reid said at a pre-match press conference.

"It's going to be a difficult game but I'm looking forward to it and so are the players."

Mumbai are also missing French striker Nicolas Anelka as he serves a ban for a controversial "quenelle" goal celebration in late 2013, which also got him the sack from West Bromwich Albion. He has denied the gesture was racist.

The absences threaten to rob the opening match of star power, with the best known player being Kolkata's ex-Liverpool midfielder Luis Garcia of Spain.

Teams of workers were also racing to get the stadium in Kolkata ready, gluing plastic sheeting to floors, cleaning hallways and hooking up lighting and wi-fi late on Saturday.

Modelled on cricket's glitzy Indian Premier League, the eight-team city-based franchises, each with a famous frontman, will play over 10 weeks.

Organisers are hoping to awaken the "sleeping giant" of football, a term that Fifa president Sepp Blatter used to describe India in 2007.

But some exerts are sceptical, with the national side languishing in the world rankings at 158, and few in cricket-mad India able to name its captain.

Reid said he was not feeling the pressure despite the high-profile build up, although he was cautious about offering any predictions.

"We will try to be offensive when we can," he said. "I think it will be a good game but I can't promise anything."