KOCHI: When Indian youngster Shubho Paul was selected for Bundesliga outfit Bayern Munich's Under-19 'World Squad' earlier this year, it felt like a massive shot in the arm for Indian football. The Bengal youngster was the first Indian to achieve the feat and Bundesliga International CEO Robert Klein feels it could be a sign of things to come.
"India has got very big potential for football. You obviously are a cricket nation and very good at it. But football is the third fastest growing sport and it will continue to be, just because it is so easy to play. There are also exciting developments in terms of the structural reform of Indian football with the ISL and the I-league, and the promotion and relegation which will bring a structure. It will be developed down to the grassroots," said Klein during a virtual media interaction on Wednesday announcing a tie-up with Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) to broadcast Bundesliga matches in India.
Reflecting on the recent tie-ups between Bundesliga top-flight clubs and Indian teams, Klein said it was a move that will help the sport to grow.
"The tie-ups like Borussia Dortmund (with Hyderabad FC) and RB Leipzig (with FC Goa) are an indication of the potential for development and for us, it is great to see. We want Indian football to develop. The ultimate goal personally for me would be to have an Indian player coming into Bundesliga which is absolutely achievable. But it will take a bit of time," said Klein.
Besides the strategic partnerships and Shubho being selected by the Bavarian giants, Bundesliga has tried to make their presence felt in India through other initiatives as well.
In 2019, they organized the Oktoberfest Experience, where FC Bayern München Legend Klaus Augenthaler joined fan groups in Mumbai for a 'Klassiker Fan Match'. Prior to that, Bundesliga legend Lothar Matthäus traveled to Kochi and Mumbai, visiting a football school and a Bayern fan club to meet and interact with supporters.
“We are excited about announcing our successful acquisition of Bundesliga, which is a part of our ongoing strategy to be the premier destination for the best of international football," he said. The recent takeover of English Premier League side Newcastle United by a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium grabbed headlines and polarised opinions. Bundesliga has stayed away from clubs being owned by rich owners but Klein feels their model is a sustainable model in the long run.
"We are well renowned for the 50+1 rule which gives the fans and members a big say in terms of the development of the club. It has worked very well for us and it has allowed us to keep a community aspect with our clubs which is a reason why you see our stadiums consistently filled. In terms of sustainability, it is very positive and it will also serve us well in the future," he concluded.
Watch Hoffenheim vs. Koln - Bundesliga LIVE on Sony Ten 2 (English) channels on 16th October 2021, 12:00 am IST onwards.