“Cricket is no. 1 in India, but football is rising...”
Oft the lament of the Indian football fan, this particular line has been just about as overused as any line on the sub-continent.
But when it comes from one of India's most popular cricketers – the words take on a whole new meaning. In a video posted by Arsenal on their social media handles, Viru paaji - as he is fondly called – speaks in detail about how he sees Indian football rising to new levels.
He says - “Cricket is no. 1 in India, but football is rising in a good manner and there are a lot of kids who want to play football – they are looking forward to the ISL (who) have done a fantastic job to bring a lot of foreign footballers to India and they are playing in front of (an) Indian crowd with lot of young kids going to watch their heroes in India and I think football is going to be a big game in India”
He was draped in an Arsenal scarf, as the London club – in association with their partners, Puma - embarks on a strategy of expanding their presence in the promising Indian football market.
“All the Indian fans, they love to watch the English Premier League or Champions League and whatever leagues are happening all over the world, and whenever (a) player or (a) team come to India, people look forward to that and they try to grab all the opportunity to meet the player or attend the event”
As always, Viru paaji was on point – the crowds that swarmed around Leo Messi in Kolkata, and Diego Maradona and Ronaldinho attended events in Kerala.
He added, with typical tongue-in-cheek humour -
“In India, cricket is more popular than football and it will take years to change that scenario but I don't think it is possible... but lets see if football is getting bigger in India then it will take time”
Here's the link for the video - https://www.facebook.com/Arsenal/videos/10154374902372713/
Things in India are looking up for the beautiful game – the national team did something amazing when they beat a team 38 places above them (Puerto Rico), Mohun Bagan became the first Indian team to crack the AFC Champions League first stages and make it to the second round, Bengaluru FC made history by becoming the first Indian team to make it to a continental final when they reached the AFC Cup final (where they lost narrowly to Iraq's Air Force Club) and the young 'uns of the U-16 team have sparkled brilliantly in the U-17 AFC Cup and the recently held BRICS tournament. And the ISL is doing its bit in increasing the popularity of the game in India.Published 07 Nov 2016, 19:40 IST