Those that either know me, have met me or read this blog would be aware of the fact that I like to talk. Well, it’s more that I like to share. Whether it’s a dream, a funny story, an experience…I enjoy communicating it to others. So it’s no surprise that one of my comfort zones is being on stage as a keynote or part of a panel sharing something important to a roomful of people who are partially forced to listen to me.
This was the case at last week’s Indian Football Forum. I’ve attended and spoken at this annual conference many times over the past few years as it offers me an opportunity to connect with friends in the industry and share updates on what’s going on in my world. Plus, the organiser, Thomas Abraham, is a good friend and someone who I’ll always appreciate for giving me the opportunity to be a keynote speaker at the 2010 Indian Football Forum which essentially was the day some of the key stakeholders of the Indian football industry figured out who I was and what I attended to accomplish in the country.
Anyway, the event was hosted at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi. My panel discussion focused on infrastructure which has been, is and will continue to be a hot topic within the Indian football circles. The other panelists were Nikhil Sharma, CEO Anglian Football, Chirag Tanna, General Manager Sports & Integration, Reliance Industries and Javier Ceppi, Tournament Director, 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
What was interesting for me during the panel discussion was that I was able to answer the moderator’s questions with complete substance based on the first-hand experience I’ve had over the past 6 months as CEO, DSK Shivajians FC. During my years with Libero Sports, I was witness to so much of the industry at all levels, but there is something tangible and unique about the insights one gains when on the ground dealing with all of the day to day opportunities and issues faced while in any club administrative role.
So during those precious moments when I had the microphone in my hand and a roomful of people feigning like they were listening to me and not thinking about my weird American accent, I shared my heart. I shared about my experiences growing up in the US and literally being a part of the growth of a football (soccer) culture. I shared about the rise of Soccer Specific Stadiums in MLS and how they have been one of the key drivers of the league’s survival and ultimately which will lead to its success. I shared about the great work that DSK Shivajians FC has done and is doing to establish a professional football structure and player pathway pyramid which can transform domestic football in India. And finally, I shared about the fact that Indian football club owners should structure their investments so they have more control over the outcomes of their properties vs. spending money and hoping the domestic professional football landscape gets sorted out soon.
So that’s that. It was a great afternoon and I’m hoping that the next Indian Football Forum is hosted at our Academy in Pune as there is nothing like a nice game of football after sitting around all day talking about football in suits and blazers.