The Spanish top tier league has a huge fan-following in the country.
LaLiga has drastically increased its presence in India after launching its second office in Asia in New Delhi. It’s been three years since that landmark step, which has proven to be revolutionary for the Spanish league in the country.
In the past three years, the audience base of LaLiga has grown and the league is closer than ever to its Indian fans. Girona FC were the first team from the Spanish league to visit India on a pre-season tour back in 2018, as they played two games against the Indian Super League (ISL) team Kerala Blasters and A-league side Melbourne City.
All the games were played at the jam-packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. The managing director of LaLiga India, Jose Antonio Cachaza has said that more Spanish clubs will come to play in India this year.
“I can’t give proper names at this point of time, but I can tell you for sure that we are working really hard. We are trying hard to bring more LaLiga clubs to play in India this year,” Cachaza told Khel Now during an event organized at the Instituto Cervantes in New Delhi to celebrate the third anniversary of LaLiga in India.
He also hinted at possible partnerships between Indian and Spanish clubs. Currently, Jamshedpur FC have ties with Atletico Madrid. The Spanish club provide technical support to the Tata Football Academy (TFA) in Jamshedpur, with experts from the La Liga club visiting the facility from time to time, along with the exchange of knowledge pertaining to multiple aspects.
The official remarked, “Well there are not that many professional Indian clubs and there are not that many Spanish clubs. So, its about reaching the agreement. Many clubs have started to look into India like Sevilla, Villarreal, Real Betis, Celta Vigo and Eibar. So, these clubs can come here in the future. ”
“As you mentioned, I will point out that Atletico relationship with Jamshedpur Tata Steel is a landmark agreement. Atletico coaches are working with them, they are taking Tata academy kids to Madrid for training. So, that’s truly a high-performance agreement. Atletico is trying to find real talent for professional players in India and probably that’s the way to find the first Indian player who will play in LaLiga.”
On LaLiga Football Schools
Praising the LaLiga football schools initiative which was launched in October 2018 across cities in India, Cachaza said, “This is a pure grassroot project, our main goal is not a high-performance project or we are not trying to recruit players through this. It is open for anyone who wants to enjoy and learn to play football.”
“There is good talent and last week we finished the national camp from which three boys or girls will travel to Spain to train for one week with LaLiga club academy. So, in that sense, talent is already there. Our resources are also very limited, so we need to focus where we can grow now and I think we are doing the same at the moment.”
Football’s growth trajectory in India has been astounding and the sport has grown leaps and bounds in the past few years. LaLiga’s digital fanbase has expanded from 300,000 in 2016 to over 4m in 2020 (the most in any country) with 1m+ followers on Instagram.
On this the Spaniard said, “We knew that broadcasting games on Facebook was a bold approach. We knew that we are ahead of time; we started doing here something that has not been done anywhere else. The rise of OTT option as a sports broadcaster is unstoppable.”
“We know that going exclusively to the internet can get us far from fans and will get us closer to others, but let’s not forget that now we are for free. Everyone can watch our matches for free from their mobile or TV set. Before we were not just in pay-TV, we were in premium pay-TV channels. So, it’s not that LaLiga was accessible to everyone. It wasn’t.”
On Ronaldo’s departure from the league
The league’s top man in the country also dismissed the notion that star forward Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid in 2018 has affected LaLiga ’s viewership in India.
He said, “I mean that’s the phenomena with the whole of Asia, that tends to follow players ahead of the clubs. That does not just affect LaLiga, but also everyone else coming to Asia. I think something is changing, we detect that people are following the clubs now because at the end players come and go, but the club stays.”
“Fans have realized that now. They will love Ronaldo even if he takes retirement. We don’t see that Ronaldo’s departure has affected us. Having him with us was a blessing because he gave LaLiga the best years of his career, but he is gone and new stars are coming.”