Football Night in…India?

Many people see football as a purely North American sport some even consider it a purely American sport. Unbeknownst to many football fans there are a number of other countries that are big fans of the NFL. When NFL Europe was still around every team but one was in Germany, a country that loves American football. There is also a number of smaller leagues that many don’t know about that are all overseen by the International Federation of American Football (IFAF). In fact the IFAF just finished their 4th World Championships of American Football in which many teams played for the world championships. There is a whole other world out there for football with a lot of countries and a lot of interest in American Football. One country that I have not heard of in terms of interest in football is India yet they have become the next centre for football. Ok, maybe not the centre but they have just created a professional league along the lines of the CFL, NFL, and UFL. The Elite Football League of India (EFLI) is the newest professional football league in the world with true investors and even a TV contract. With investments from former Packer Brandon Chiller and former Eagle Ron Jaworski the EFLI has officially been created and will start playing in 2012. They currently have eight teams in line to start the league that include the Bhubaneswar Warhawks, Delhi Defenders, Goa Swarm, Hyderabad Skykings, Kolkata Vipers, Mumbai Gladiators, Pune Blacktigers, and Punjab Warriors. The teams will consist of all Indian players, coaches, and managers that will be trained by those with knowledge of the league. The league will start with these eight all Indian teams but will expand towards 52 teams by 2022 that will cover every city with over 1 million people. The league will closely follow the NFL as they attempt to grow from their infancy and attempt to create a financially viable league and not repeat the failure of NFL Europe. For those of you not convinced that it will work I am not completely with you. I am reserving my judgment and I will tell you why.

India has never been a massive sports power with only one gold medal, in shooting, in their history in the Olympics. The tides are changing however as India has become one of the fastest growing countries, in terms of economy, in the world. With the massive increase in manufacturing and the increase in disposable income for some of the people there comes a desire for something to do with the disposable income. This need for a disposable income is where sports fits in perfectly, especially in the infancy of any sport. With the creation of the Indian Premiere League (IPL) as India’s first professional league the door was broken down for other professional leagues to begin. Of course Cricket is a little bit different to sell to India than is football. In fact the one issue that faces the EFLI is that the majority of the most popular sports in India involve no violence and no contact. American Football will try to change this as they will ride the coattails of the IPL into another professional league. Although football has not been involved in India there is still a need and more specifically a need in the television market that has very little sports they can show. Although they will never replace Cricket, much like nothing will replace the Maple Leafs in Toronto, the fact that football has become the first major North American sport in India may give them a leg up. With 2.1 billion people in India I have a feeling they might find their niche among a certain number of fans. Whether or not it will be very successful is a question to be answered but everything in the Indian market points towards success. I feel like the people involved are very committed to the cause and will go through the growing pains in the first couple of years and will see it through to a successful point. I am going to take the wait and see approach as I am still skeptical about whether Football can work in India but there seems to be too much in favour of the move to make it an outright failure.

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