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La Liga club Girona FC to play 2 matches in Kochi
Kochi, June 26: La Liga club Girona FC will embark on a two-game trip to India in July, becoming only the second team from Europes top five football leagues to bring a team to the country, it was announced on Tuesday.
Girona's matches, as part of the Toyota Yaris La Liga World tournament, will take place against A-League side Melbourne City on July 27 and Indian Super League (ISL) side Kerala Blasters on July 28 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kerala, according to a release.
These two matches will also be part of Girona's build-up for the 2018-19 La Liga season.
Girona FC have had two seasons to remember, promotion from La Liga second division in 2016-17, the first in their near 88-year history, followed by a 10th place finish in the La Liga.
It was the league's governing body that helped to bring one of its top ten sides to India, a watershed moment for top European teams visiting the country.
Girona FC, nicknamed 'Gironis' won the hearts of the neutrals last season with spirited displays against some of the giants of the division.
The La Liga side was boosted by the goals from top scorer Cristhian Stuani who found the net 21 times last season. The Uruguay international who is representing his country at the 2018 FIFA World Cup finished fifth in the La Liga top scorers chart.
The tournament's first match will be held between Kerala and Melbourne City, who had a third place finish in the A-League.
La Liga India manager Jose Cachaza said in a statement: "We promised La Liga fans in India that one day we'd bring a top side to the country, and we've delivered on that. This is a special moment for a sports mad country, and we are delighted that Girona FC have decided to make this historic trip.
"In the last 12 months, we have had 20,000 fans attend an el Clasico public viewing in Delhi; we have been able to bring to India La Liga ambassadors such as Gaizka Mendieta and Gianlucca Zambrotta. We have so much more to announce for our fans in India in the coming weeks. This is just the start."
Girona club President Delfí Geli said: "It is an honour for our club to participate in this tournament in India. For Girona FC it will be a special experience as it will be the first time our team has played away from Europe since its foundation 88 years ago.
"We are looking forward to starting the tournament and showing the football that we have displayed in La Liga to the Indian football fans and the world."
La Liga Ambassador Fernando Morientes, who was present on the occasion, said: "It's a real privilege for me to be in India again. I was here in September 2016 when La Liga first started their operations, and today is a special day when we can bring one of our teams to India for the fans to enjoy in person.
"It will be a special moment when Girona FC run out at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. I look forward to seeing the fans showing their support in numbers, and the announcement goes to show the interest in La Liga across India."