La Liga clubs meet in New Delhi
by Chirag R Bhattad
Top officials from 18 Spanish La Liga clubs got together in New Delhi on Tuesday to discuss ramping up of activities in the country. The meeting was focused on making a decision to do a tie-up with All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Indian Super League (ISL)
A couple of them enquired about the popularity of kabaddi in India, and a few said they are aware of cricket being the country's number one sport.
"We are not here to displace cricket from the top. We have come to see football's potential for growth in India," said one of the club officials.
Dignitaries from renowned Spanish clubs such as Atletico de Madrid, Vilarreal, Valencia and Deportivo Alaves, among others, gathered here to study the Indian market and draw a future course of action for what is a potential market that needs to be tapped.
"According to the report I have with me, that is the plan - a collaboration with the All India Football Federation, so that they can work on the sport in India right from the bottom to the top," an official, who was part of the event, told PTI.
The clubs, however, were not as forthcoming when asked if they were looking for some kind of formal association with the AIFF.
"India is a huge market with a lot of following for football, La Liga as well. We know cricket is big here. But we want to help grow football in India. We know there is lot of business in India. We want to be closer to the fans here," said Deportivo Alaves' president Alfonso Fernandez.
They are scheduled to meet ISL franchises on Wednesday to discuss possible associations before leaving for Spain. In one of the tables, Alfonso was accompanied by Real Sociedad's director Nerea Aramburu, S D Eiber's Yogaraj Kumal and Celta Vigo's commercial director Carlos Salvador.
In another group, Atletico Madrid's director of communications Rafael Alique, Getafe CF's secretary of board of directors Juan Leif, Real Valladolid's deputy director of presidency David Espinar and Rayo Vallecano's Managing director Luis Yanez were seated. Apart from them, representatives from Sevilla, Real Betis and Girona FC, the first La Liga side to have a pre-season friendly in India, were also present.
The expectation from today is that Atletico Madrid and Jamshedpur FC will announce an official tie-up, with details of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) scarce so far. But if the rumours do come to be true, it would be a big achievement for Jamshedpur FC and a body blow to ATK, who had had a decent working relationship with Atletico Madrid in the inaugral season of the ISL.