INDIA is the most populous DEMOCRACY on the face of the earth and yet the cricket mad India which used to rule the hockey finds itself in 150th place in the FIFA world rankings last month below Syria, Gambia,Malta and ...at least a big improvement over two years ago when it was a lowly 169th.
Four years ago they hosted the Commonwealth Games in DELHI, with many empty seats unlike the 2012 Olympics in London and the recent GLASGOW Commonwealth Games. Look at some of the 2010 brand new stadiums and they are gathering dust.. or loads of rubbish. SO WHAT IS NEW with the Blue Tigers of the ALL INDIA FOOTBALL FEDERATION.
In 1950 they qualified for the World Cup in Brazil but decided not to go, and have never got near in the following 64 years. They were more interested in the Olympics and came 4th in the Melbourne Olympics of 1956. For many recent years they have been in the wilderness and not even qualified for the Asian Cup. The I -League has operated for a few years with little nationwide interest except for local derby matches at the huge SaltLake Stadium in KOLKATA (formerly Calcutta) in the North-East, usually with crowds of over 100,000 watching East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Elsewhere there has been limited interest in the stadiums and with the media, in this six month long league that features promotion and relegation.
Today at SOCCEREX WORLD FORUM in Manchester we had a presentation about the new ISL which will have 8 teams which are franchises with no relegation, and modeled on the hugely popular cricket IPL. Atletico de Kolkata, Delhi Dynamos, FC Pune City, Goa, Kerala Blasters ( Kochi), Mumbai City FC, NorthEast United. Bollywood actors and cricket ledgends(Guwahati), Team Chennai. Big backers realising that 5 years is a realistic time to break even. FC Pune is linked with Fiorentina ad are currently training in Florence. The Kolkata team is linked to Atletico Madrid, Delhi Dynamos with Feyenoord,Team Chennai with Inter Milan. Peter Reid and Steve Darby, who together used to coach the Thai national team, will be in charge of Mumbai City FC.
Starting in late October the ISL will last 16 weeks and has been put back so as not to compete with IPL cricket and the Indian National team fixtures. Bollywood actors and cricket legends are among the investors. Former England goalie David James will play for the Kerala Blasters plus French World Cup winners Robert Pires and David Trezeguet are also signed up. However fans watch English Premier League and other European Leagues on TV, but will want Indian players to show skill and promise, and of course massive development programmes on a continuous basis MUST be implemented. To this end India will host its first ever world football event, The FIFA u17 World Cup in 2017.
I enjoyed speaking with the 'mercurial' SUKHVINDER SINGH of LIBERO SPORTS who moderated today's launch and presentation. Lots of Indians from football and others sports, including sponsors and government officials, are in town to learn and promote their message. Hero Motors have signed a three year deal to be the league title sponsor for a 'significant' fee and have moved away from cricket. A ten year media rights deal of US$ 325 million has been signed, so I personally can't wait to read about the first season.