La Liga mulls collaboration with AIFF, 18 clubs meet in Delhi

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Top officials from 18 Spanish La Liga clubs got together in the city Tuesday, ramping up their activities in the country while mulling a collaboration with the All India Football Federation.

A couple of them enquired about the popularity of kabaddi in India, and a few said they are aware of cricket being the country’s number one sport.

“We are not here to displace cricket from the top. We have come to see football’s potential for growth in India,” said one of the club officials.

Dignitaries from renowned Spanish clubs such as Atletico de Madrid, Vilarreal, Valencia and Deportivo Alaves, among others, gathered here to study the Indian market and draw a future course of action for what is a potential market that needs to be tapped.

“According to the report I have with me, that is the plan – a collaboration with the All India Football Federation, so that they can work on the sport in India right from the bottom to the top,” an official, who was part of the event, told PTI.

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The clubs, however, were not as forthcoming when asked if they were looking for some kind of formal association with the AIFF.

“India is a huge market with a lot of following for football, La Liga as well. We know cricket is big here. But we want to help grow football in India. We know there is lot of business in India. We want to be closer to the fans here,” said Deportivo Alaves’ president Alfonso Fernandez.

They are scheduled to meet ISL franchises on Wednesday to discuss possible associations before leaving for Spain.

In one of the tables, Alfonso was accompanied by Real Sociedad’s director Nerea Aramburu, S D Eiber’s Yogaraj Kumal and Celta Vigo’s commercial director Carlos Salvador.

In another group, seated were Atletico de Madrid’s director of communications Rafael Alique, Getafe CF’s secretary of board of directors Juan Leif, Real Valladolid’s deputy director to presidency, David Espinar, and Royal Vallencio’s managing director Luis Yanez.

Representatives from teams like Sevilla FC, Real Betis and Girona FC, which is the first club from Spain to play in a tournament in India, were also present.

In August, Sony Pictures Networks India announced its partnership with social media company Facebook Inc. to telecast La Liga matches on television in India.

As part of the deal, over 100 selected matches will be aired on ESPN’s sports channels, including the key clashes, El Clasico (matches between rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid) and Madrid Derby (matches between Atl tico Madrid and Real Madrid).

This came after Facebook bought a three-year exclusive rights to show all La Liga matches in India.

Social media and digital media were the buzzwords on Tuesday and the La Liga clubs are more focussed on that than television.

Last month, the league launched football schools in India for a comprehensive development of the game in India. In association with India On Track (IOT), the schools are being set up across cities.

La Liga hopes the programme will be accessible to over 30 schools and 3,000 youngsters nationwide by the turn of this year.

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