Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

The Qatar Effect: How India can take the FIFA legacy forward

Three months after Argentina lifted the FIFA World Cup and ahead of the Indian Super League final, Forbes India takes a look at the impact on India of the Qatar extravaganza

Published: Mar 18, 2023 08:01:00 AM IST
Updated: Mar 18, 2023 05:07:01 PM IST

The Qatar Effect: How India can take the FIFA legacy forwardChildren seen playing football in front of a graffiti wall with Cristiano Ronaldo (7) along the street as they celebrate FIFA World Cup 2022 in Kolkata. Image: Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The legacy of any sporting event has two sides to it. The first legacy is the physical infrastructure created and the second is the effect of the event on those who have been part of it as well as how those in the vicinity will benefit from it. For India, the Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 holds lessons and opportunities in both these legacy parts.  

Indians who were a part of the World Cup in Qatar have gained valuable experience in different aspects of organising the World Cup including working on legacy projects, and these experiences will come in handy to them in their professional careers. It might also motivate some of them to pursue a full-time career in sports, especially in football.  

“It shouldn’t be forgotten that Qatar’s staging of the World Cup has a firm Indian basis to it. From migrant construction workers through to middle and senior managers of the tournament, its legacy will always carry some Indian DNA. Post-event, the pressing issue surely becomes: What next for India and Indians?” says Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy at the SKEMA Business School in Paris.  

He says that given the significant numbers of Indian people who were involved in the World Cup, perhaps the Indian government should be addressing how this talent could be used to boost India’s own sports industry. “There’s an interesting opportunity, should the government and the sports industry seek to take advantage of it,” he says adding, “It immediately springs to mind that the Indian authorities may also want to think about how to address the talent drain that took so many Indians to Qatar in the first place, especially with Saudi Arabia now also spending big on sport.” 

Also read: Football in India: What will it take to put the spotlight on players?

Shaji Prabhakaran, general secretary of the All India Football Federation, agrees that the World Cup opened up opportunities for India. “The exposure working with the World Cup is a unique experience and these opportunities might be quite life-changing experiences to do something big for themselves and the country. The local football industry in India can utilise the services and expertise that these individuals (who worked on the Cup) have gained in Qatar,” he says. Economically, India stands to gain at a macro level because we are looking to use the country’s expertise in technology, construction and operations.

It's not just the economic benefits, but also obviously the benefits on the sports side. The Indian sports industry spend is estimated to have surpassed Rs 9500 crore in 2021 as per a report by media investment company GroupM. As per Statista, revenue in the Sports Events segment is projected to reach $0.75bn in 2023. Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2027) of 2.09 percent, resulting in a projected market volume of $0.82bn by 2027, and the number of users (people in the sports events industry) is expected to be 39.6m by 2027.

Qatar 2022 has further bolstered India’s fan engagement in the sports sector. According to Chadwick, with the Qatar World Cup, the world was introduced to football fandom India-style in Qatar. “Pre-tournament reporting about ‘fake fans’ was ill-informed and premised on European perceptions of fandom—which were, let’s be honest, arrogant and insulting. Indian fans showed that it is possible to be passionate about overseas teams, as well as your own,” he says. Domestically, there is clearly a hardcore of football fans from India, who could potentially form the basis for building a stronger, more vibrant football culture at home, he adds. “At the same time, it seems certain that national team and club marketers from overseas will have noted the passion of Indian fans in Qatar. This could mean that they start taking a closer look at India, something which football and government in India should be ready for.”

Fans are the basis of building a strong football culture. Bhairav Shanth, co-founder of ITW Universe says matches being broadcast at a relatively ideal time for Indian viewers meant that more people tuned in. “This may mean that TV and streaming viewership might see an uptick for other multinational events like Euro and Copa because of sustained interest particularly if both broadcasters and federations in a bigger way tap into the appetite pockets of fans (like in Kerala or Bengal) have in India for football.”

He believes that for Indian brands exploring football on the global stage, the visibility of BYJU’s and Amul’s successful partnerships with Argentina & Portugal have piqued interest. This interest could flow both ways. “Federations like Argentine Football Association (AFA) are waking up to the potential of the Indian market because there are substantial fan bases of other European teams as well,” Shanth says.  

Prabhakaran adds that the success of Qatar has motivated all of Asia and the situation is particularly encouraging for football in India. “This World Cup has motivated India as a whole to elevate the standard of football across the APAC region,” he says.

Also read: Football: A social and gender tool empowering girls in rural India

Other projects are adding to the creation of a stronger football culture in India as a direct consequence of the Qatar World Cup. The tournament’s social legacy initiative Generation Amazing, launched in 2010 by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy as part of Qatar’s bid for the FIFA World Cup 2022, helps support vulnerable and displaced people and has implemented football for development projects in 35 countries. Generation Amazing operates in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, promoting inclusion and gender equality in its football for development programme.  

India has been an important destination for the legacy programme. In 2020, Supreme Committee’s Global Ambassador Spanish footballer Xavi Hernandez visited the Generation Amazing site in Colaba in Mumbai to mark the construction of a new community pitch and take part in a game of football with programme participants and youth ambassadors from across India.

“Generation Amazing has been driven by a fundamental belief that football can unlock the potential of young people around the world. Generation Amazing is currently present in five locations in India and we will continue to work in the territory this year too. We have had a considerable number of Indians working with our Local Organising Committee and we continue to work with India-based foundations like Dream a Dream, Magic Bus, OSCAR Foundation, Slum Soccer, YFC Rurka Kalan and Yuwa,” says Nasser Al Khori, executive director, Generation Amazing.

According to him, construction work is on at the Generation Amazing Community Club (GACC) in Rurka Kalan with local partner Youth Football Club (YFC) Rurka Kalan. “The infrastructure development will serve 25 surrounding villages. It will include a full-size grass pitch, classrooms, conference facilities, ayurvedic restaurant as a social enterprise initiative, and accommodation spaces to allow delegations to visit and participate in YFC Rurka Kalan projects,” he says.

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his speech at the golden jubilee of the North Eastern Council (NEC) which coincided with the World Cup finals, “Today the teams playing in the Qatar final are both foreign countries. But I can say with assurance that we will be organising an event like the FIFA World Cup in India and will cheer for the tricolour." 

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