The Elite Football League of India was created in order to bring America’s most popular sport to the world’s second most populous country. The hopes are that the sport will catch on in India and generate the fervor and passion that is commonly seen in the States. So far, the first step in exposing India’s football league to the world has been the securement of a TV contract that would broadcast games to the public.
It has been well documented that India has a very poor selection of sports television. If football can catch on in India, there would be unlimited potential for America’s favorite sport to grow. With such a large selection of sports on Indian TV, it would take a large effort for the EFLI to outdo its primetime competitors. Cricket, soccer, field hockey and tennis are the most commonly watched on Indian sports TV. However, the EFLI still has some way to go before they can become the number one watched sport in the country.
So how do you shape the EFLI after the NFL as efficiently as possible? You bring in NFL coaches and players to tutor these inexperienced Indian players in the sport. In a country of over a billion people, it is hard to imagine that talent isn’t available. It just needs to be sought out and nurtured.
A total of eight coaches with very distinguished NFL careers were part of the EFLI. Mark Philmore was the head of all the coaches down there, watch this space for a feature with Philmore.
Amongst the other coaches is Tony “Touchdown” Simmons, a former NFL and CFL (Canadian Football League) receiver who is currently a coaching consultant for the EFLI. During the regular season, he is the offensive coordinator for an American football team based out of Finland. He traveled to India during his offseason and spent three months in 2012 travelling around India mentoring various coaches and players in all aspects of the game. So far, he’s liked what he’s seen, saying in an interview with Voa News, “I always see them training; they’re doing stuff on the beach. They work really hard. Mentally, they go through plays. They’re starting to get it more and more, and if they keep doing what they’re doing, they’ll get what they want.”
Simmons has also been an excellent promoter of the league, spreading documentaries and videos on his Facebook page to generate awareness.
Perhaps the most distinguished and well-known NFL coach working with the EFLI is Super Bowl-winning, hall-of-fame coach Mike Ditka. Ditka played in the NFL for 11 seasons (1961-1972) and coached for 26 (1973-1999). He is one of two individuals to ever win an NFL title as a player, assistant coach, and head coach. The EFLI is certainly lucky to have such a big NFL legend investing and working with them. Should Ditka coach or mentor any of the EFLI players or coaches, expect the league to move along at a tremendous pace.
The EFLI’s debut season last year was considered a rousing success by its investors and players. It was an excellent learning season for all parties involved and the expectations of the second season are very high. While last year’s season only featured one stadium for all teams to play in, this year, EFLI games will be played in a number of stadiums scattered around India. I can only imagine this is to improve fan attendance and to generate a fan base that will help sustain the various teams in the EFLI in the years to come.
There have also been talks to expanding the league with additional teams from Bangladesh. Bangladesh, a country of over 150 million people and with limited to no American football exposure at all, would be another excellent market that the EFLI would want to tap should they have another successful year. With a coaching unit headed by Philmore and additional coaching from NFL greats such as Mike Ditka and Tony Simmons, 2014 should be a breakout year for the Indian football league.