Football has no rival. It is the world’s favourite sport, the world’s richest sport and finally, the world’s most played sport. The sport’s governing body, FIFA, even has more nation members than the United Nations. Football is everywhere. One country where football has yet to make its mark, however, is India. This is something I can attest to on a personal level.
Growing up, football was more than just a part of my life – it was my life. Ever since I can remember, my only dream was to make it to a professional level. When I moved to India, at the age of 11, I faced a few setbacks. Despite being brought up as an Indian, it wasn’t until I moved to New Delhi that I realised just how absent football was from the local culture. I struggled for over a year to find a place to play football on a regular basis, at a competitive level. This really struck me. I was lucky enough to meet the right people and ended up moving to France to play for the academy of a professional team.
Unfortunately, three years later I found myself going under the knife for the third time in just 20 months and had to hang up my boots before I even turned 18. This was without a doubt the hardest pill for me to swallow but I knew that my love for football wouldn’t falter. I then set out to find a path back into the sport but on the business side of things. I remember trying to think of different opportunities in the world of football and thought of India. Not seeing someone fly my country’s flag in the world of football killed me.
With things finally starting to show promise in Indian football, it seemed like the timing was perfect. It started with me spending a lot of time reading about Indian football and trying to understand why India had failed to make any concrete progress in the sport for years. Last summer, I spent a month in Hyderabad working at an I-League Second Division team to understand what Indian football really looked like at the professional level on the ground. The whole process started with a class on entrepreneurship and the professor selected the best work and presented it to a publisher who was keen on helping us through the process.
Today, India is a land full of opportunity and is arguably one of the most attractive countries in the world for investors. In terms of football, it might not be amongst the most attractive for players, but in the eyes of investors, it is certainly up there. Football in India is finally beginning to gain momentum. The Indian Super League had the fourth highest average attendance in world football. The 2017 edition of the Under 17 World Cup is being hosted in India and there seems to be more and more money coming into the picture. “1.3 Billion: A Footballing Revolution in the Making” is a book I wrote over the past year and it is my way of showing the world of football what it is missing out on in the shape of India.