The world will be watching closely as India readies to host the FIFA Under-17 (U17) World Cup for the first time this October. India love for sport is growing rapidly and the corporate world is realizing the great potential the country has from grassroots to commercial activities.
Football is the second most watched sports after cricket and the viewership is expected to rise post FIFA U17 world cup. Moreover, India will try to establish its presence globally as a major event organiser through it.
The Drum spoke to Jaime Yarza, head of FIFA tournaments about the emergence of football fandom in India.
Does FIFA's grassroots program in India have enough corporate support? If not, why do you think brands should invest in such ventures?
With 50% of India’s population below the age of 25, companies can access a huge market through sport and contribute to a healthier lifestyle in future generations. The support given to Mission XI Million confirms that corporates are starting to understand the value of football grassroots sponsoring. We hope that the outcome of this programme, in conjunction with the FIFA U17 World Cup, will improve the current cooperation of football stakeholders and companies.
Now that the stadiums are FIFA standard, will the organisation now encourage or organise more international matches in India or in that case, APAC?
The legacy component of the FIFA U17 World Cup India 2017 focuses on two aspects: stadium and training sites infrastructure, and promotion of football among youth generations. A natural development of this key legacy will be the organization of more football tournaments. If they are FIFA or AFC tournaments, we will see in the future. But FIFA is counting with increasing football opportunities in India after this World Cup.
Statistics are definitely in favor of football in India. Season finale of Hero Indian Super League 2016 saw in attendance 54,000 people thronging the stadium in Kochi and 41 million fans tuning in on television to follow the nail-biting clash between Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters FC (BARC CS4+, U+R viewership Finale, All Channels).
The total number of viewers reached was up 41% as compared to the final of 2015, with viewership in impressions breaking all previous TV and digital records of the league. The numbers increased across the nation with Kerala fans leading the way in making ISL the most viewed televised sports event of the year in the state.
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