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Football’s coming East; Adrian Rattenbury’s take on Football in India

Is India in for one of the most dramatic changes to its sport, social and cultural history ? Football is coming!

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Cricket has dominated India for many many years with ever piece of spare land becoming a cricket square, every young child learning to play and the National Team continuing to have success at the world level. For many years the Indian cricket authorities have had to do very little to promote their game, encourage people to take up the sport, gain television exposure and sponsorship. Indeed the introduction of the Indian Premier League has made their job even easier.

All this being said, over the past few years there has been a growing number of people playing and following football. The English Premier League has been a major part of this together with the extended television coverage exposing more and more people to the game.

Although there has been the Indian Premier League running for a few years it has not made much impact on the sporting world in India as there are no real ‘names’ yet in the game and as such no role models for the young players to try and emulate.

Enter the Super League. The investment into a new league placing teams geographically and strategically around the country is the start of a new venture. The new teams have had major investments into them to be able to attract real ‘names’ into the league including Robert Pires, Allesandro del Piero, Freddie Ljungberg, Nicolas Anelka, and David Trezegue to name a few. These players will become real stars in the Indian sub-continent and will help to lay the foundations for future generations of young footballers throughout the country.

If these names were not enough to get the publicity machines rolling behind the league then the involvement of Cricketing Super Legend Sachin Tendulkar should just do the trick. Not only is he involved in the league he is the owner of the Kerela Blasters team. If Sachin is going to follow football every self-respecting Indian Cricketer will follow too, which will give a huge boost to the league and the interest in it.

If the organisers, players and marketing people can do their magic then a major culture shift is on the horizon. It may have taken many years for cricket to become the number one sport and to dominate the whole country. I think it will be take a fraction of that time for football to have the same impact and if this first league is as successful as the first ever Indian Premier League in cricket it wouldn’t surprise me to see football as the number one participation sport in India within 5 years and then those people involved in the management, promotion and development of cricket will need to work harder than ever before. Realistically they need to start now as the football juggernaut is on its way and as we all know when that things starts rolling it is almost impossible to stop and the second largest nation on earth will be hooked!

Adrian Rattenbury – Sports Consultant

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Eastern Promise; Adrian Rattenbury’s take on Tennis in Thailand and India

“Just back from 3 weeks in Thailand and India. Thailand was pretty good and India was really tough ! We have been away 3 weeks, run 4 courses had 18 meetings took 10 flights and spent around 40 hours in the car driving around various meetings in India!”

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Tennis is now the 2nd largest sport in India second only behind cricket and the largest sport for females in the country. Considering this and bearing in mind the population of the country it is somewhat surprising that they continue to struggle to produce any highly ranked singles players. Although they continue to have success in the world of doubles the lack of singles is somewhat of a mystery – or is it ?

Although there are many people playing the game there is a general drop out from the sport when it comes to exam times which just happens to coincide with the key age for the development of a player to transfer from playing junior tennis to senior tennis. The lack of understanding of the requirements of professional sport together with the perceived lack of opportunity for Indian players is also a contributing factor. Furthermore the fact the sport is not taught in schools, colleges or Universities and that the Government still do not recognise sport as an industry are further influences on the lack of progression for Indian players. It is rather surprising that sport is not considered an industry especially considering the impact of the Indian Premier League in cricket.

All this being said there are though some fundamental issues in the production of high class players. Not that there is a lack of talent in the junior age groups, there is, not because there aren’t any tournaments as there are. Indeed one coach has now run tournaments at one of his venue for 78 consecutive weeks, probably some sort of World Record!. One of the problems though is that there are not enough tournaments at the beginning level of the World Rankings so for a player to get onto the ‘ladder’ of the tour they will need to travel and travel regularly which immediately presents a barrier for many players and their families. A further consideration has to be the level of coaches and coaching. The coaches I have been able to work with in the past year or so are highly motivated, enthusiastic and very keen to see their players progress. Indeed nearly every coach now has an Academy. What that really means though is that they have a coaching programme and not a genuine Academy in the way we see them operating in Spain for example. One of the issues with the coaches if the level of their knowledge. I do not blame the coaches for the information that they are passing onto their players, like most things we will base our work on the training that we have received and if that training is not up to standard then it is highly unlikely that the coaches will be better than the training they receive. As an example of this, the National Institute for Sport which is responsible for developing coaches across most sports still uses the curriculum that it developed in 1962. Unfortunately not all tournaments are played on grass with wooden rackets and white tennis balls anymore!

If India can address some of these issues then we will start to see more players coming through the ranks and the sleeping giant may start to wake !

Adrian Rattenbury – Sports Consultant

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