The Indian football landscape has transformed over the past 2 years and the Premier League has certainly woken up to the power of this country. Not only has India proven to the world that it loves and appreciates global football, the industry has finally figured out how to welcome and accommodate large profile foreign football programming hosted on its soil. The past few days are a perfect example of this.
Thanks to our relationship with the Asian Development Football Project and our association with the ONE GOAL campaign we were invited to be a part of the Barclays Premier League Live event. The event, organized by the Premier League, was intended to bring the excitement of the world’s most popular league directly to the global football community.
The whole experience was positive and a privilege for any football supporter or administrator to attend. The event started with a 4 hour workshop offered to the Indian football community where Premier League management presented information on a number of administrative areas intended to educate key stakeholders within our industry. Post that, we headed over to the MMRDA grounds and were treated to a celebrity match between Bollywood Celebrities and Premier League legends which included Abhishek Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor and Robbie Fowler and Emile Heskey respectively.
The next day was spent on the MMRDA grounds interacting with thousands of Indian football supporters while we collectively enjoyed the sights and sounds of the Premier League and its clubs promoting themselves through giveaways, trivia, celebrity appearances and other means. In the evening we watched the Kerala vs Chennai ISL semifinal on one massive screen and an EPL match on another while we drank free Carlsberg beers, munched on scrumptious food and talked about how much we love our lives.
My role in all of this was to run a session on football and nutrition for local kids in the community on the 5v5 pitch situated in the middle of the fan park. Although the session was only an hour long, it actually took weeks of planning, coordinating with local community coaches, designing and printing branding materials and putting together the media plan. It was totally worth it as I not only had the opportunity to educate 20 youth on nutrition, I was fortunate enough to be considered a partner and a part of the Premier League’s 3 day party in Mumbai.
I can’t even begin to describe how much the relationship between foreign football entities and India has transformed over the past 5 years of me living in this country. I remember when I first arrived it was big news if 1 foreign coach representing an international club arrived and led a multi-day training session in a remote area of the country at the expense of some rich and passionate Indian. Now not only is the biggest league in the world taking over an entire section of corporate Mumbai for 3 days at their own expense, but 11 clubs and legends are tagging along also on their own dime. And the beautiful thing is that our friends from the UK could justify their resource expense, because India delivered over 30,000 die-hard Premier League supporters during the 2 days of the fan park.
I keep staying this, but the future is bright for Indian football and I’m blessed to have seen some of its darker days so I can truly appreciate these moments when the dawn is certainly breaking on this exciting industry.