The lure of the Indian rupee

first_imgUS President Barack Obama’s $ 450 billion job stimulus did not have the desired effect on the global stock exchanges over the weekend, but if one talks of money being mopped up by ‘international sport’ in India, there seems to be no crunch at all.This has been a season of huge spending on sport in India, which is either taking place or going to take place. From football to Formula One and NBA stars and coaches coming for plenty of commercial reasons, there is no dearth of funds.For those who made a dash to Kolkata last week to watch Lionel Messi in action against Venezuela, it seemed like a life-long dream come true. Such was the craze to see Messi in action in flesh and blood that many people busted their credit cards to buy air tickets and also the high-priced ticket to enter the Salt Lake Stadium.Sadly, if you gift the same football fan a complimentary ticket and ask him or her to go to the Ambedkar Stadium to watch a domestic football match, that person would most likely refuse.While you can say this is the beauty of the fans’ connect with a global sport and how they are ready to pay for it, the reality is that the sport of football in India is not going to gain in any way from this. Messi has come and gone, his popularity soars, and those marketing the T-shirts, shorts and shoes with his branding are making a killing. What this simply proves is how, in India, people are willing to spend on a star and the associated merchandise.advertisementThis is not the first time the Indian market has been used for making profits. I still remember how the marketing agents played on Bayern Munich goalkeeper Oliver Kahn’s retirement.It was as if the German was keen to play his last match in Kolkata before walking into the sunset.Just imagine, a player who has never been to India becomes a hero and the public pays a price to go and watch this drama! And all this is happening at a time when Indian football is at an all-time low. But the tamasha does not end here. Week after week, international clubs are coming to India and setting up shop. Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United are all here to announce how they are going to set up football academies.I refuse to believe this is going to improve the standard of Indian football in a huge way. While the popularity of these clubs in India will improve further, as also their TV ratings, perhaps they may end up raking in more moolah through their merchandise sales.Mind you, all this is happening at home when around the globe, there is fear of yet another recession.Liverpool have started a football academy in Noida under the helmsmanship of former player Steve McMahon (extreme left).Last week, when international hockey federation (FIH) president Leandro Negre took away the Champions Trophy from India, there was shock and indignation at home. Yet, Negre was smart enough not to name the next host city right away as he knows there is no better country than India to cough up the sponsorship and guarantee money.One of the stories doing the rounds is how the FIH got into a tricky situation last year when some money owed to them from India for the World Cup got caught in government tangles.The inside story is that when Negre comes to India next week, he may be able to strike a deal with the sports ministry.It could also mean the Champions Trophy being restored.All this conveys one common message – while we may be reluctant to spend on our own athletes, there is enough money to be splurged on big- ticket events, unmindful of how there really are no tangible returns.Add to this the drama of the arrival and departure of NBA coaches as well as former and present stars, and we are being made to believe as if our basketball will improve by leaps and bounds. A big corporate house like the Mahindras has tied up for a basketball academy, hoping that our hoopsters will benefit.However, my belief is that this will only contribute more to the popularity of NBA and increase the Indian TV viewership. As it were, the young Indian basketball fan knows who a LeBron James or a Kobe Bryant is. But if you ask him to tell you something about our own Ajmer Singh, the fan would draw a blank.advertisementBut the biggest circus of them all, owned by Bernie Ecclestone, takes place in Greater Noida on October 30. Even as economically stronger countries see Formula One races being taken away from them, money is no worry for the Indian Grand Prix.There is a $ 35 million guarantee which is being given to Bernie by track owners JP Sports for the Indian GP. Add to it the huge sum which Airtel pays up as title sponsor, and the figures are mind boggling.With the track homologation cleared, it is now time for the big car companies like Mercedes and Mahindra to announce their association with the Indian GP in various capacities.If the Indian F1 fan is lucky, he or she may get to see a Narain Karthikeyan or a Karun Chandhok behind the wheel of a racing beast which belongs to the back of the grid.Folks, all this is happening in India with less than 11 months for the London Olympics. The athlete who could bring us Olympic glory languishes even as more ‘East India’ companies are being set up on our soil.Ironic, isn’t it?s. [email protected]last_img

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