How popular is football in India

Cricket star Tendulkar: "Football is increasingly popular in India"

Sachin Tendulkar is not one of the big names in football, but if you look at the sporting world as a whole, few players enjoy the same status as the Indian, who is widely regarded as the "god of cricket". After playing 200 games for India, he ended his active career in 2013. Since then he has been involved in football and acquired shares in the Kerala Blasters, a team from the Indian Super League ISL.

The team reached the final for the championship title in the ISL's debut season and since October 2014 has had an average of over 50,000 fans. So there is great hunger for football in India, where the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup will take place.

In this situation, Tendulkar took time out for a long conversation, in which he talked about his own passion for football and also made comparisons between cricket culture in India and football culture in Europe.

When did your passion for football begin?
Already in my childhood, actually. As a child I loved playing football and during my career as a national cricket player I also enjoyed football, because volleyball or football is often played to warm up. Football is great fun and one of those sports that cannot be avoided anywhere in the world. Personally, I've always enjoyed watching football, but without preferring a particular team. I've always liked football on TV.

You lived in England for some time and traveled a lot there.** Did you also attend soccer matches?
Yes I have. I was at a Manchester United game. Sir Bobby Charlton was there too, of course, and so we saw the game together. That was a fantastic experience. I really liked the atmosphere. The passion of the fans and the reactions to every little action on the field were just amazing. I enjoyed this experience very much and still think about it a lot. It was very special to be here as a guest from Manchester United.

Is the football culture in England comparable to the cricket culture in India?
Yes very. It all reminds me of the people in my home country. There, too, the passion is enormous and every little thing becomes important. Everything is observed and discussed very closely. Everything is under the microscope, so to speak.

Are the huge numbers of spectators at ISL games a sign that football is gradually catching up with cricket?*
* In any case, football is becoming more and more popular. He's still a long way from cricket, but I don't like comparisons like that anyway. It's about the appreciation for each sport - the skill, the hard work and the sacrifices of the players. Every athlete should have respect for it. In any case, the Indians have great appreciation for the ISL. I'm really happy with the way the league is received and that people are not only watching the foreign players, but also the local ones. They become stars, role models - and that's how football develops in India. India has over a billion inhabitants and if football develops in such a country it will definitely have a positive effect on world football.

The FIFA U-17 World Cup will take place in India in two years.** How do you see such a prestigious competition coming to your country?
It's going to be a huge thing. Everyone is looking forward to it, everyone is excited and can hardly wait to have this World Cup in India. It's going to be huge and good for India because people like ISL a lot and when FIFA comes to India with this tournament it will be a really big deal.

Why did you decide to get involved in the ISL?
I have a feeling that India is opening up to other sports too. So it was just a very good opportunity to get involved in football and thus contribute to the promotion of football in Kerala. We had huge audiences and the whole thing is a fabulous success.

Your team, the Kerala Blasters, reached the ISL finals last season.*What feeling prevailed after the game *** disappointment or pride?
I was overjoyed. We didn't get off to a good start last season. But coach David James and I were convinced that it would slowly get better and so it happened. The team stuck together, played better and better football and won people's hearts. You can't always go out and win every game, but you can win hearts. And we managed to do that last season. Obviously the players were disappointed after the lost final, but then I went to the dressing room and told them how proud I was of them. The way we played we should have deserved to win the championship, I told them, but sometimes things don't go the way you want them to. Sometimes things are different.

What sporting experience from your own career are you trying to convey to the team?
I told the players: 'Don't worry about the result, just play fearless football. Don't worry about the result all the time, because that won't help. You have to focus on the game, not the result. I want you to show the style of play that we want the Kerala Blasters to do. If we can do that, we will win hearts all over India. ' Because that's very important to me - the way you play. Of course you can lose a few games, it happens to every athlete. Much more important is the style of play, that's what matters.

India is a huge country. But while talented cricketers are mostly discovered and promoted, there are far fewer paths to success for young footballers within the framework of the existing structures. What can football in India learn from cricket?

I am convinced that the infrastructure and the organization of football in India will be the decisive factors. The course of the season will also play an important role. Of course you want to have as much competition as possible in the league. It's about identifying the best talent in ISL. The Indian national team will ultimately benefit from the experience of the competition with some top footballers from around the world. I have no doubt that this development and these improvements will come.