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Why Fans Will Play a Pivotal Role in FIFA U-17 World Cup’s Success

The success of the FIFA U-17 World Cup doesn’t have anything to do with India’s performance in the competition.

Published
Football
5 min read
One of the players of the Indian U-17 side Shubham Sarangi in action.
i

“Football without fans is nothing,” said Gianni Infantino, FIFA President.

The supreme authority of football said these powerful words on the first day of his tenure as FIFA President, and rightly so.

Football is like a building and the fans are the pillars and foundation of this building. Without the fans, this metaphorical building would cease to exist. As a football fan from India, this is the belief that I want to instil in every fellow football fan before the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

It needs no saying that football has often taken a backseat in our nation. The lack of live match telecast of Indian football team’s matches for many years and more recently the AIFF’s decision to postpone India’s AFC Asian Cup qualifier by a day because the Indian cricket team was playing on the same day are prime examples.

If you’ve felt helpless and want a change from this, the U-17 World Cup might just be the perfect opportunity.

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Manchester United fans cheer their team during a match against RSC Anderlecht.
Manchester United fans cheer their team during a match against RSC Anderlecht.
(Photo: Reuters)

The Role of Fans in Sports

As much as we love the beautiful game and the teams we support, it is wise to remember that there is a business aspect to the game. Winning trophies is always a priority but keeping the business model sustainable and profitable is surely higher up on the agenda.

Football teams make a lot of money from sponsorship and it is vital to development. How much money teams make from sponsorship deals depends on the extent of their reach, or in other words, the magnitude of their fan base.

For example, Manchester United are among the most followed teams in the world and hence, it was unsurprising when they received a record kit deal worth £75m a year from Adidas.
File photo of Virat Kohli (L) and MS Dhoni (R).
File photo of Virat Kohli (L) and MS Dhoni (R).
(Photo: Reuters)

Let’s draw an analogy with cricket. Why is it that broadcasters prefer to air cricket matches and highlights rather than live football matches? Why is it that cricket receives so much more attention than any other sport in the country? Why are cricketers used to promote almost every product under the sun?

The answer is simple – the influx of money is directly proportional to the number of fans. In India, cricket has fans and cricketers also have fans.

India is the second most populated country on the planet and a vast proportion of India’s population follows cricket religiously. Hence, the money that flows into the sport is huge.

A player doesn’t even have to be an Indian international player for huge monetary rewards. There is a lot of money involved in domestic tournaments and of course, there is also the Indian Premier League.

That is the level at which I hope to see football in India reach, where a player doesn’t have to be an international to make a good living out of the sport.

The role of fans lies beyond supporting a team as they are a vital entity for teams to make money.

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File photo of India U-17 football player Aniket Anil Jadhav.
File photo of India U-17 football player Aniket Anil Jadhav.
(Photo: AIFF)

What is Success For India at the U-17 World Cup?

Now that we have established how important fans are to the success of a sport or a team, it is time to turn our attention towards the U-17 World Cup.

For me, the success of the World Cup doesn’t have anything to do with the team’s performance. Let’s be honest here, India is still a long way from being a competitive side on the international stage and it would be foolish to expect the Indian team to come out of a tough group with USA, Colombia and Ghana.

The success of the World Cup is dependent on us – the fans.

Irrespective of how India performs during the course of the tournament, it is crucial that fans turn up in huge numbers to cheer for the young Colts. It might not change the result of a match, but it could play a huge role in changing the football landscape of the country.

A group of fans cheer for the Kerala Blasters team ahead of an ISL match.
A group of fans cheer for the Kerala Blasters team ahead of an ISL match.
(Photo: Indian Super League)

In India, parents are reluctant to let their kids find a career in sports unless it is cricket. But with the advent of ISL and the attention it has gotten, parents are far more supportive of their kids who want to play football. I have heard this from young kids in Kerala.

If ISL can make such a difference, imagine the impact fans can make during the U-17 World Cup!

This being the first FIFA tournament in the country and also India’s first-ever participation in a FIFA tournament, the attention it will get is huge. The fact that these matches will be telecast also helps.

If we can have a full house for at least India’s matches during the World Cup, then it will leave a vivid memory in the minds of potential sponsors, parents and aspiring footballers. We will be able to show the whole nation that there is scope for football in India.

We are a country with a population of over 1.3 billion and with the right facilities, support and guidance, we can certainly unearth a team of stars in the near future.

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(Naveen Joseph is a passionate, avid and cognizant sports fan who believes that sports make the world a better place. Although content writing is his forte, he has significant experience in video production and copywriting. All of this after graduating from IIT Kharagpur. In the long run, he hopes to infect the rest of the world with his love for sports.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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