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Indian football needs to cash in on foreign interest

International football's interest in India has its pluses and minuses. I can't help but feel that the game here could have done with the money that goes into getting foreign clubs here and staging international friendlies. Bhaichung Bhutia writes.

india Updated: Dec 28, 2011 01:43 IST
Bhaichung Bhutia

International football's interest in India has its pluses and minuses. I can't help but feel that the game here could have done with the money that goes into getting foreign clubs here and staging international friendlies. For a long time, we thought India doesn't have the money for football.



Over the past two-three years, increase in international traffic has debunked that theory.

So, it's no longer "show me the moolah".

Just that it isn't meant for our clubs or the game in India even though both badly need a big financial push.

But then, that's only fair because no one puts his or her hard-earned money into sport purely for charity.

I think, with the influx of football's top brands in India, there lies a big challenge for our administrators at the clubs and in the All India Football Federation (AIFF).http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/281211/28-12-pg20c.jpg

They need to transform Indian football and its competitions into a better package, one that is a viable commercial entity, one where matches are not held at odd hours and has sustained television coverage, one where stadiums provide spectator comfort.

We are going in the right direction with club licensing being made mandatory by the Asian Football Confederation and teams being encouraged to generate revenue streams that ultimately make them financially viable. But, a lot still needs to be done.

I count the huge increase in interest as an important positive. The more people watch, the more it inspires tomorrow's generation to take up the sport.

Even five years ago, it was impossible to think that Lionel Messi and the Argentina national team would play in India.

Or that Brazilian legends Romario and Branco would be part of a reality football show for a just-launched Bangla television channel and Diego Forlan would judge that programme's final within three weeks of his winning the Golden Ball in the 2010 World Cup. India has the money and the market.

It is for our football to use this surge in foreign interest to its benefit.

(Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia's international farewell will be against Bayern Munich in New Delhi on January 10)