Legends Match Expected to be Held in India Soon, Says La Liga India Head Jose Antonio
One can count the number of times Indian football fans have been afforded the chance to watch some of the fancied heroes in their own backyard. More than half a decade ago, Argentina played Venezuela at the Salt Lake Stadium in a friendly, and since then the star power has been restricted mostly to Indian Super League with their marquee players and coaches.
Dutch defender John Heitinga (2ndL) vies with Real Madrid Legends' Portuguese midfielder Luis Figo (R) past Real Madrid Legends' Spanish forward Raul (L) during the match Real Madrid Legends vs Ajax Amsterdan Legends at the Santiago Bernabeu (AFP PHOTO)
New Delhi: One can count the number of times Indian football fans have been afforded the chance to watch some of the fancied heroes in their own backyard. More than half a decade ago, Argentina played Venezuela at the Salt Lake Stadium in a friendly, and since then the star power has been restricted mostly to Indian Super League with their marquee players and coaches.
Soon that though is likely to change with La Liga in talks with stakeholders to host a legends match on Indian soil. A legends match, generally a charity affair, pits the best in the history of the respective teams against each other. One of the most recent games saw Real Madrid’s legends led by Raul take on Arsenal Legends at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“La Liga, hopefully in the next off-season will be able to bring a legends match to Indian shores. It won’t be easy as there are various factors related to promoters, but next year is the target,” says Jose Antonio Cachaza during a quick chat in the national capital.
“We would also like to be able to organise friendly matches with between La Liga sides and the Indian clubs soon,” Jose says before further adding that they are already in touch with clubs from the Indian Super League and the I-League with respect to the said matter.
More often than not, one would expect the Indian audiences to warm up to the first possibility (legends match) over a current La Liga side, simply because the top teams of Spanish domestic football will not be among the visitors anytime soon.
“It is not easy with the big three (Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid) especially, though we would understand most people want to see them. But unfortunately, their availability is always the biggest hurdle.”
La Liga ventured into the Indian market a little less than a couple of years ago with grand and glitzy announcement with the Spanish Davis Cup team led by Rafael Nadal gracing the occasion in the national capital.
“Our strategy of international growth is extremely important to us and we want that to grow along with the growth of football in India. We want to cater to the Indian fans and we would like to have the same kind of effect the Premier League had when they came to India,” Jose says clearly outlining the plans of La Liga in India.
In a bid to attract more Indian audiences, La Liga has previously changed the timing of El Clasico in December 2017 just to make the logistics easier.
Commenting on the announcement back then, Mr. Javier Tebas, President of La Liga, said, “A match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona always generates a tremendous amount of interest around the world. We want the many La Liga fans in India to enjoy the match as if they were in the stadium.”
Even as they tap into the rich resource that is the sport loving population of India, La Liga is also putting into place projects to help strengthen the ecosystem of football.
Previously, a team of young footballers from Jharkhand had made a short two-week trip to train at the facilities of Real Sociedad. They returned home as trained football coaches with an international certificate.
La Liga, currently, is in the process of planning similar things for Indian football coaches right from the grassroot levels. The country of head of La Liga explains that their way of helping better the grassroots will be by improving the standards and not tampering with the basics situation.
“The idea is to be able to develop some advanced coaching programmes for Indian coaches and focus on training the trainer,” says Jose. He also conceded that exchange programmes for young footballers are also in the pipeline.
The main task, he reiterates, will be to help improve the standards of coaching in the country.
La Liga are slowly spreading their base around the country and admittedly are looking to become a dominant force in India. While most of their activities have been aimed at mostly increasing their audiences in the country, they are also looking to engage and build a culture for the game in rural India.
In Anantapur, they have tied up with the Rural Development Trust and will, in the coming days host clinics for the young girls with Real Betis’ Irene Guerrero.
“The aim is to be able to help women’s football in India. We have already conducted small projects before and now we hope the bigger plans fall into place,” Jose said.
In Anantapur, the local football league this coming season will be supported by La Liga and Fundacion La Liga through its partnership with the Rural Development Trust.
Between June 11th and 13th, a La Liga delegation led by Jose Antonio and Guerrero will look to encourage girls to take up sports as they visit 20 grassroot centres in Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh.
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