As a football consultancy, it is our duty to stay one step ahead of the industry when looking at the future of Indian football. For the longest time people have only mentioned three (3) places as opportunity markets for Indian football: Bengal, Goa, Kerala and now you can throw in the Northeast where a lot of talented young players are coming from. While all of these locations are truly football markets, we believe that talent and opportunity also lies in Tier 2 markets such as Indore, Baroda, Kanpur, Nagpur, etc… For this reason, I’ve been spending a fare amount of time visiting these places to better understand the football opportunity within the city limits.
The other day my colleague Sweekar and I took a night train into Kanpur, a city which is in the state of Uttar Pradesh. I’m always overcome with a twinge of nervous excitement when I travel to these places which are off the beaten tourist path since I know that my trip will be a series of small adventures whether I like it or not.
Our train got into Kanpur station at 7am and we were picked up by our friend and guide for the day Rishi. We spent the next 15 hours in colleges, universities, schools, restaurants, bars, etc… meeting with the various sports stakeholders in the city and discussing ways to support the growth of football in Kanpur. All of our site visits and conversations only validated our belief that with the right structure and resources, these cities can see rapid growth with their football development and have every opportunity to produce Indian national level players through their programming.
My favorite part of the day (other than munching on the famous Bawa’s Chicken Biryani) was having the opportunity to speak with some of the football players at Kanpur University before their match. It was interesting to hear about their challenges in developing through football in Kanpur and answering their questions about sports management opportunities within India. They couldn’t believe that both Sweekar and I were getting paid to work in football, off the pitch.
As I was getting onto the 11:55pm night train back to Delhi, my head was filled with mixed emotions as I always leave these wonderful towns knowing that I have an opportunity to begin to fulfill the dreams of so many people in these places, however also knowing that it will take a tremendous amount of time, energy, resources, teamwork, patience and luck to make it happen.