Football in India has always been an interesting topic. One of the largest nations in the world in terms of population, India don’t exactly have an illustrious history in the sport. The one time the nation actually made it to the World Cup in 1950, they pulled out because they weren’t allowed to play barefoot! Yet despite that, the country has always had a fair share of football fans, although sports like cricket and badminton have always dominated the sporting scene of the nation.
Having said that, times are changing now. More and more people (particularly youngsters) are turning to football and the sport is slowly but surely gaining in popularity. Here are 8 reasons as to why now is one of the best times to be a football fan in a cricket-crazy nation:
1. Popularity of the sport is at an all-time high – Football has always had a fan base in India, however small it may be. However, the youth of the nation are now turning to football as another form of entertainment and as of now football viewership is off the charts. Many people are turning to the game and the popularity of the sport is not only high, but is only growing with every passing day.
2. Plenty of games shown live on TV - The soaring popularity of the game has led to many sports channels broadcasting various leagues. Currently, Indian viewers can watch League and domestic cup matches from all of Europe’s top 5 leagues (England, Italy, Spain, Germany, France) as well as Champions League and Europa League matches among others. Fans can now also watch matches online, meaning that no one can complain about a lack of matches being shown at any time of the week.
3. Sports bars are becoming more common – It’s a common trend abroad to go to any local bar to catch a live game. While India doesn’t have too many bars around, sports bars (bars with the aim for telecasting sports games) are slowly but surely coming about, allowing football fans to watch the matches in a more comfortable manner. These bars aren’t at every nook and corner of every street just yet, but the idea is definitely catching on and will definitely make watching matches a better overall experience.
4. Big names are beginning to show interest in the nation – The growing popularity of the sport is leading to some of footballs big names (be it players, ex-players or teams) are seeing the nation as a market. Liverpool FC have launched an academy in India and FC Barcelona are looking to do the same in the near future. Lionel Messi has already visited Kolkata with the Argentine national team and Bayern Munich have played an exhibition match against the Indian team. The world is beginning to recognise India as a nation that likes football.
5. Infrastructure in the nation is improving – One of the main areas India is lacking in is infrastructure. However, they do have a massive fan base for the game and this means that companies are willing to invest in the game. The best way to solve the infrastructure problems is by investing in the game, so these problems won’t be around much longer. The fact that Indian clubs compete in AFC competitions means the infrastructure is slowly improving already. It’s only a matter time before the nation can start building a top-class League and improving the national team.
6. Club merchandise now available – One of the best ways to flaunt support for your club is by wearing official club merchandise (jerseys, jackets, hoodies, caps etc.) and these are now very easily available. For instance, Manchester United have opened a few of their official stores in the country. Apart from such stores, sports brands like Adidas, Nike, Puma etc. keep jerseys and other merchandise in stock. Showing of your support is now a lot more easy than it was maybe ten or twenty years ago.
7. Media coverage of the sport is prevalent – Due to the fact that the number of fans are increasing, media outlets are now covering football leagues on a more regular basis. This increased coverage allows fans to get a more in-depth view of matches. There is also a rise in the number of football blogs and websites being run which is only serving to garner a larger buzz around the game. Football clubs are also doing a lot to get a slice of the lucrative Indian football pie (like Liverpool launching a Twitter account specially for India).
8. Social networking makes connecting to other fans easier – With the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, Indian football fans are now able to connect with one another easily, giving fans an outlet to express their passion as they are mostly unable to attend matches in stadiums. The fact that clubs also have their own official Facebook and Twitter pages makes it easier to keep up with the latest news.