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Arsenal legend Pires punched in India

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PIRES-PUNCHNEW DELHI, October 23-Organisers of India’s Super League football tournament were on Friday investigating claims that former French international Robert Pires was punched on the face by a rival coach during a half-time scuffle.

The incident reportedly took place during the break in Thursday night’s match in Goa between Pires’ FC Goa and Atletico Kolkata. An ISL official said both sides had informed organisers of what took place.

“The matter is being looked into,” the official said, without elaborating.

Brazilian great Zico, who coaches FC Goa, said after the match that Pires mentioned he was hit on the face by Atletico coach Antonio Lopez Habas as the teams came off the field at half-time.

“Pires said he was punched on the face by the Atletico coach and this is very shameful,” Zico told reporters.

“I am telling you what my players told me — I didn’t see that myself — but I don’t think that Pires will lie and say something that didn’t happen.”

There was no comment from officials at Atletico, who won the match 2-1 to record their third win in four matches in the eight-team tournament.

The ISL, which is modelled on cricket’s popular Indian Premier League, is backed by sports management giants IMG and Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, and televised by Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV.

Cricketing greats Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, Bollywood A-listers Ranbir Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan, and Spanish La Liga side Atletico Madrid are among co-owners of the eight franchised teams in the 10-week long tournament that began on October 12.

The league has lured past greats like 39-year-old Alessandro Del Piero of Italy, ex-Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, and former French internationals Nicolas Anelka, Pires and David Trezeguet as marquee players.

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