A recent visit to the country where my parents grew up was eye opening. I never thought that there would be such a huge demand for football. Mumbai in particular had a high concentration of football fans. With a population of about 1.25billion it is a surprise that no English football club has yet tried to exploit this market.
The perception of India is that it is a cricket mad country. I found this to be wrong, they are a sports mad nation. Football, Hockey, Tennis and Badminton are very popular. Unlike the Far East football only took off in India in the last 7/8 years. For this reason the majority of fans are for Chelsea, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United, although Arsenal have a good following.
Although Virat Kohli and Dhoni dominate the billboards there are also many adverts with Messi and Ronaldo. With the start of the Indian Super League and the youngsters that first started watching Premier League football entering the work market, this is the time that football is going to explode in the country.
The only major club (excluding Blackburn Rovers) who have attempted to travel to India is Bayern Munich. The first premier league club to travel to India will make an even bigger impact as the competitive nature of the premier league is appreciated more. Mumbai is full of Manchester United Cafe’s.
Recently Robert Pires stated that he may talk to Arsenal about a potential tour. What he witnessed was an average of 22k fan turn out each game in the ISL. This for a much lower standard of football than what the European teams can offer. Infact the ISL registered as the highest attended league in Asia.
This is an opportunity for Arsenal to woo new fans and potentially find the first real Indian football star. The first club to do that will corner the market.