Indian Football at a point of Depature

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At a time when some of India's business houses are busy disbanding their soccer clubs, Paris-based soccer writer and consultant Simon Kuper says corporates in the country must realise it is time that they set out on the path of tapping to the fullest the big opportunity of refurbishing the game in the country.

This past week, JCT Ltd shut its soccer club, following in the footsteps of Mahindra United which folded up last year. Kuper, who was in New Delhi recently to attend a football conference organised by the International Football Arena Ltd to discuss the business of soccer, says thanks to globalisation and cable TV, soccer is expected to see a major overhaul in the country.

"The truth is the national team cannot get any worse. And this could be early days of a revival," he says. Once soccer gets proper attention from all stakeholders involved including the government, aficionados and corporates, the Indian team may start winning matches in the global area. Kuper says this has happened in the case of the Under-16 Indian junior team in South Africa last year when it beat the host nation.

"When the Indian team starts winning matches ... that will be the catalyst for Indian soccer going global," says he. Kuper concedes that India is a sleeping football giant, but the country's sports authorities-or for that matter corporates-can't pin hopes on European football clubs to help put Indian soccer on the world map. "They are not interested in Indian players, they are interested only in Indian fans," he says.

Therefore, he adds, "it is up to the domestic players-corporates and football aficionados-to pursue the big opportunity". Kuper, whose books include Football Against the Enemy and Soccernomics, says most European clubs look down upon Indian soccer because they assume it is highly unorganised.

But what is heartening, he says, is the massive interest for soccer in the country. Many people in India are getting frustrated about the bad performance of their soccer team, he says. Thanks to robust economic growth and easy access to information, India will become a notable soccer-playing nation in the near future, Kuper says, adding that "what is happening in India is happening all over the world ... that is the magic of soccer. It is happening in Australia, the US and other countries. It is like a virus".

Indian soccer will improve further as the penetration of cable TV rises rapidly, he says. "India is probably at what might be a point of departure for the game." Kuper, whose soccer consultancy firm Soccernomics, which is named after his own book, looks to offer advice on best soccer practice (using their knowledge of the Barcelona/Ajax models) and psychological and educational support for young players.

It will also help soccer academies in emerging soccer countries find western partners, among others. NEW BOOK While his previous book, Soccernomics, dissects the "beautiful game" using math and treats it more like a commodity than sheer entertainment, his latest book bring to the fore his love for the game and its astute practitioners--both players and managers.

Article by Simon Kuper who is author of popular book Soccernomics
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