Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pune & Kolhapur

My experience going on business trips within India has completly transformed. During the initial year and a half, I was still growing my name and credibility within the Indian sports Industry. It felt like most of my trips were to sell myself to the people I was meeting and then sell whatever property or service I was actually trying to sell. It was exhausting, but I knew it was just something that one has to go through when moving to a completely different place.

But now things are exactly how I dreamed they would be, how it was in the US after many years at MLS building relationships and credibility. I go on business trips that feel more social than business and I now have access to key people, places and events.

Recently I went to Pune to see the final of the Manchester United Premier Cup. The whole day was special. Flew in and had lunch with Kushal Das, General Secretary of that AIFF, Viswajeet Kadam, head of the AKFDC Academy and representatives of Nike India. From there we went to Bharatiya Vidyapeeth University for a press conference and then to watch the match between Salgoncar FC and Mumbai FC.

After the match we went back to our hotel and had a nice rooftop dinner with the folks from AIFF, AKFDC and Sunil Chhetri where we solved all of Indian football’s problems over great food and an even better view of Pune.

The next day, our Libero Sports team woke up early and took a 4 hour drive to Kolhapur, a city located in the southwest corner of Maharashtra. There we met with descendants of the former King of Maharashtra in their palace to discuss ways to grow football in their city. It was a fascinating conversation that showed the direct link between sport and culture. We learned that there are over 2000 registered players in this small city and that they typically get 30,000+ people at their amateur league matches.


After the meeting we went to their city stadium, met with the rest of the Kolhapur football administrative staff and headed back to Pune making sure we stopped at a dhaba along the way to taste some of the local cuisine.

This short expedition to Kolhapur validated my belief that India truly is a football country, it just takes a little bit of digging to see the action happening beyond hotbeds like Goa, Kerala and Bengal. With the right vision ,energy and structure, cities like Kolhapur will become the breeding ground of the next generation of Indian sports heroes.

All in all it was a fabulous 2 day trip that re-energized me to want to get out across the country and continue to meet and ideate with the people driving football in this country.

No comments:

Post a Comment