He referred to the IPL as the Indian Cricket League but apart from that Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), had a good idea of what he was talking about.
The man, who banked on brand David Beckham to bring in the crowds for 15-team Major League Soccer (MLS) in the USA, was here on Tuesday to discuss possibilities of a tie-up with the All India Football Federation (AIFF). Gulati had stopped on way to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress in Malaysia.
Beckham being loaned by LA Galaxy to AC Milan was just what the MLS didn't need, he said. “It's a loss. He (Beckham) could get the crowd into the stadiums.”
Despite the cult status of the NBA and the MLB, Gulati's been instrumental in ensuring football is alive in the world's most powerful nation. “Soccer in the US is still not like basketball in Boston. In India too, cricket is the number one sport, but we have come a long way and I hope my colleagues in the AIFF dream the way we did,” Gulati, the executive vice-president and chief international officer when USA hosted the World Cup in 1994, said.
“The challenges for India are pretty similar to what we had faced earlier. It's just that the landscape is different,” Gulati said. “The MLS included, as far as sport is concerned there is a strong revenue sharing system,” the Indian-born American, who is also a professor of economics at Columbia University, said. On that count, Gulati lauded the IPL's ability to sell TV rights for $1.018 billion for 10 years.
On collaborating with the AIFF, he said: “We can work together in three to four distinct areas -exchange programme at the national as well as youth level, referees and coaches, sponsorships, besides organising workshops.” There is also a possibility of having a team from the US in the Nehru Cup, but Gulati said it is too early to take a call on that.