Broadcasters play spoilsport as India tunes out Asian Cup

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Broadcasters play spoilsport as India tunes out Asian Cup

While Rupert Murdoch’s Star Sports packaged the ISL with the right mix of promotion and presentation to grab viewers, the tournament also packed out stadiums and enjoyed a strong presence on social media.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Tue 27 Jan 2015, 10:46 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 8:06 PM

Mumbai — While the cream of Asian football fights for glory in the region’s biggest tournament, the indifference of Indian broadcasters to the Asian Cup is a major setback to those hoping to grow the game in the world’s second-most populous country.

Described by Fifa President Sepp Blatter as a “sleeping giant” of world football, India, with is population of 1.2 billion, has no shortage of potential players. However, the national side is languishing at a worst-ever ranking of 171 and the cricket-obsessed country has shown few signs of waking from its soccer slumber. That is not to say there is no interest in the game. There is huge appetite for England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga, while the franchise-based Indian Super League, with its cast of celebrity owners, foreign managers and a sprinkling of high-profile players, was very well received.

The ISL, which had its inaugural season last year, reached the television screens of 170 million Indians in its first week and many hoped its success would be a platform to build on. However, with India failing to qualify for the showpiece Asian Cup, currently being held in Australia this month, the momentum has been lost.

Subrata Dutta, vice president of the All India Football Federation, told Reuters that the tournament held little interest for broadcasters without an Indian presence. “The relevance is not there for the channels,” he said. “The Asian Cup is now of little importance to us because India are not playing.”

While Rupert Murdoch’s Star Sports packaged the ISL with the right mix of promotion and presentation to grab viewers, the tournament also packed out stadiums and enjoyed a strong presence on social media. The ISL semi-final second leg between FC Goa and Atletico de Kolkata last month was played at a sold-out 27,000-capacity Fatorda Stadium in Goa.

In stark contrast, last weekend’s domestic football league opener at the same stadium sold 125 tickets. India qualified for the last edition of the Asian Cup in Qatar four years ago by virtue of winning the AFC Challenge Cup, a tournament organised to allow lower-ranked countries play in continental competition. The games were shown live and while India lost all their group matches they earned high praise for the fight they showed against higher-ranked Asian competition.  



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