Barca, and Messi, in India? Club’s Asia-Pacific Head Thinks So!
File picture of Barcelona stars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez celebrating during a La Liga game against Real Betis.
File picture of Barcelona stars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez celebrating during a La Liga game against Real Betis.(Photo: AP)

Barca, and Messi, in India? Club’s Asia-Pacific Head Thinks So!

Will Barcelona fans in India get to witness the sight of Lionel Messi and the Catalan giants playing in the country? Can Indian footballers, one day, make it to the Spanish top-flight? The answer to both questions is yes, if FC Barcelona Asia-Pacific Director General Jordi Camps is to be believed.

Asked about Barcelona's prospects of playing in India, which is one of its strategic markets, the club official sounded positive.

“India is one of the top players in the markets and for sure our team in Barcelona and Hong Kong is working to have the opportunity or bring the opportunity to the India fans, to watch our players live and we are working on it.”
Jordi Camps, Asia-Pacific Director General, FC Barcelona

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La Liga club Girona FC were in India this summer to play in an exhibition tournament in Kochi, and Camps was inquired about whether the country would be part of the Catalan giants’ pre-season camps anytime soon.

“I don't know if it will happen the next year or the following year or the year after that but we will have them here for sure. We had the legends in India two months ago and we have the schools so little by little we are coming but I hope we have Messi here before he ends his career,” said Camps.

A team of the former stalwarts of Spanish giants FC Barcelona was in Kolkata in September to play a friendly 'legends' match against a combination of former players of Mohun Bagan. Chants of 'Barca, Barca' were heard loud and clear from the stands of Salt Lake Stadium as the Barcelona greats stole the show in the exhibition game.

Aiming to tap the Indian market, Camps believed the Asian country will become one of the most important football destinations in the world in the near future.

“Football in India is growing like anything and of course cricket and other local sports are important but the work that ISL and the national team are doing, and with how they are treating the grassroots programmes and more, India will become one of the most important countries.”
Jordi Camps, Asia-Pacific Director General, FC Barcelona
Lionel Messi’s only visit to India came in August 2011, when Argentina played a friendly against Venezuela at Kolkata.
Lionel Messi’s only visit to India came in August 2011, when Argentina played a friendly against Venezuela at Kolkata.
(Photo: PTI)

Last month, top officials from 18 Spanish La Liga clubs got together in the capital, ramping up their activities in the country.

“Everything that we do we do for the international market and we have also chosen 10 strategic markets, one of which is India. Our main focus is the US and China but in the second tier is India.

“We are also the most admired and beloved global sports brand in the world and to get into the 1 billion viewers and India is going to be a very important part of it,” Camps added.

The Barca official also sounded a hopeful note when asked if Indian players could, some day, ply their trade in the Spanish La Liga.

“In India there are many good talents so we compare India to other Asian markets and you realise in India they have talent of course, they don't get the full football culture so it's up to us to teach them, help them and develop this talent,” Camps said.

“We have cases like this when four years ago in Goa with a kid training at the Barca academy. He was very good and our dream is to have an Indian player someday (play in Spain), it's going to happen, it's matter of when and not how.”

(With inputs from PTI)

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