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India is slowly emerging as a rather profitable market for football, with the Indian Super League attracting names like Robert Pires and top Premier League clubs attempting to woo their Indian fans during festivities such as Diwali and Holi through the social media.
The subcontinent’s new crowning achievement comes in the form of Premier Futsal, the first ever and only multi-national futsal tournament.
Five world-famous footballers – Ronaldinho, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Michel Salgado, and Hernan Crespo – and many revered futsal players, including Brazilian futsal legend Falcao have signed hefty paychecks to kick the ball around in the subcontinent.
Here are the five talking points from the first phase of the tournament that took place in Chennai, one of the only four metro cities in the country.
Ronaldinho’s career in 80 minutes
Ronaldinho’s’ top-level playing career virtually ended when he reached his thirties as he only proceeded to play in Brazilian leagues afterward, before getting his release request sanctioned at Fluminense last year in the wake of a string of poor displays.
Not many would have expected the one-time Ballon d’Or winner to go down this way, but his first two Premier Futsal games pretty much proved why that had been the case.
In his first game for Goa, he seemed to lack the passion for the game as he rarely moved and misplaced many simple passes. He mostly stuck to the goal as Goa succumbed to a 2-4 defeat at the hands of Kolkata.
However, he bounced back in the second game, against Bengaluru as the Brazilian sensation bagged five goals and the man-of-the-match award.
He still seemed as disinterested as he had looked in Goa’s opener, but a few magical moments ensured the Goans cruised to a 7-2 victory.
Strange Indian fans
Indian fans thoroughly enjoyed the tournament as much as they cherish cricket, with many in attendance travelling hundreds of miles to watch their icons in action.
Manchester United shirts were seen everywhere on the stand as the two Red Devils legends enjoyed a wild reception; Ronaldinho had the loudest pop, though.
Though they seemed to respect every single marquee player – even the underperforming Falcao – they booed Kochi’s Salgado during both his outings in Chennai.
The former Spain international earned his side a penalty after inviting a tackle from Mumbai’s Giggs from the behind, and the crowd promptly responded by booing him.
In the second match, his side locked horns with the home team in Chennai, and he was constantly booed.
However, the fans appeared to cheer him when he found the net, and the stadium clapped in unison when he limped off the pitch.
Indians definitely are good at mimicking the British and the Americans.
Argentine striker likely to return
Whilst Ronaldinho hardly seemed to care about the event, another South American in Hernan Crespo tried to give his everything during the presentation, promotion and on the pitch.
His Twitter bio says he specializes in public relations, and given his efforts to make the event a success means he will definitely come back again next year if Xavier Britto, the Chairman of Premier Futsal, decides to make it a yearly event, as an ambassador at the very least.
Better future than ISL
Twenty-over cricket seems to appease the Indian population more than the more conventional formats in one-day and test version do.
In futsal, Indians have what they can describe as the T20 of football.
Divided into four quarters, the match runs only for 40 minutes, and the frequency of goals – Premier Futsal currently averages close to six goals per game – is certain to ensure that fans return to the stadium in search of excitement, drama, and whatnot.
However, the Premier Futsal management should, however, rename the teams as they are currently named bluntly with 5s as the suffix to the city’s name.
In an era when people glorify identifying themselves as a part of a certain fandom, a unique team name is necessary.
Good ole’ ticket price issue
Tickets were priced at 800 and 1000 INR (£9 for Blue Stand and £12 for Green Stand).
However, in a country whose per capita income is only $4000, the ticket prices seemed outrageous, and numerous passionate football fans and United supporters missed their almost once-in-a-lifetime chance, because of the ticket prices.
The first matchday in Chennai saw an almost-full Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium, but only one of the four stands completely filled for the second matchday despite both Scholes and Giggs playing on the same night.
There were three tiers in the stadium, but the management chose to allot tickets only for two, meaning the stand farthest from the pitch remained empty.
Had they chose to price the farthest stand (Blue) at £5 or less, the attendance would have been a bit higher, and such a move would have mustered even more followers, who would make the second season a bigger success.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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