Two of the world’s fastest foot grow­ing foot­ball mar­kets face each other in the field. Here's the fans re­ac­tion

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Li Jieyi and Yin Lu

The In­dian na­tional foot­ball team will play against the Chi­nese na­tional team for the first time in 21 years in an in­ter­na­tional friendly match in China this Oc­to­ber. The In­dian team is sched­uled to travel to Bei­jing on Oc­to­ber 8; the two na­tional teams will face each other at the Suzhou

Olympic Sports Cen­ter Sta­dium at Suzhou City, Jiangsu Prov­ince, on Oc­to­ber 13, ac­cord­ing to AIFF (All In­dia Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion).

While both 97th-ranked In­dia and 76th-ranked China em­brace large pop­u­la­tions and fast grow­ing soc­cer mar­kets, nei­ther is con­sid­ered to be per­form­ing well in the in­ter­na­tional foot­ball field. The 1997 Nehru Cup saw a draw and a win for China when they played In­dia 21 years ago. As this friendly match be­comes a fo­cus for 2.6 bil­lion peo­ple, Met­ro­pol­i­tan spoke with both Chi­nese and In­dian foot­ball fans and play­ers in Bei­jing to get a feel of their ex­pec­ta­tions.

Tech­niques or team work?

Yao Lan, 24 from China, is a soc­cer fan. “For China, it’s go­ing to be a home game. In terms of the op­po­nent, I don’t think the In­dian na­tional team has per­formed well ac­cord­ing to their world rank­ing. I’ll bet on China to win the game.”

China has faced In­dia 17 times. It won on 12 oc­ca­sions and was drawn the rest of the games. Yao is not alone in her con­fi­dence for China’s record against their op­po­nent who seems likely to suc­ceed.

Tom Gizachew, from the US, is an ama­teur soc­cer player in Bei­jing. To him, the Chi­nese play­ers are not too bad. “I’ve never seen In­dia play soc­cer be­fore. It could be em­bar­rass­ing if China loses,” Gizachew said.

Oth­ers see the game dif­fer­ently. Jen­nifer Chen from Fiji loves play­ing soc­cer recre­ation­ally. The 26-year-old be­lieves that the friendly match may see a win for In­dia. “Foot­ball is a team sport. Com­pared to the tech­ni­cally su­pe­rior Chi­nese play­ers, In­di­ans may per­form bet­ter as a team based on my own ex­pe­ri­ences here in China,” she said.

Grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity

Ac­cord­ing to an AIFF re­port, AIFF gen­eral sec­re­tary Kushai Das said that China and In­dia are to­day be­ing seen as the two fastest emerg­ing soc­cer mar­kets.

Could China, known as the world’s

most pop­u­lous coun­try, hold a World Cup one day? In or­der to an­swer this ques­tion, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is go­ing to build its “soc­cer pyra­mid.” Ac­cord­ing to a Xin­hua news re­port, The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion has pub­lished a memo for pilot pro­grams with an aim

to re­form soc­cer ed­u­ca­tion in schools in or­der to fos­ter tal­ent in the coun­try.

The In­dian per­spec­tive

Some say the dom­i­nance of cricket in In­dia makes it dif­fi­cult for the coun­try to fo­cus on any other sport­ing en­deav­ors. Sau­rabh Dwivedi said his na­tion has seen big changes sur­round­ing the game. Dwivedi is from New Delhi and stud­ies at China Med­i­cal Univer­sity. Sum­mon­ing up his child­hood mem­o­ries, Dwivedi said that when you turned on the TV in In­dia, the only sport you could find was cricket. If you asked chil­dren what they wanted to do when they grew up, no one wanted to be a soc­cer player. “Now, ev­ery­thing is dif­fer­ent,” he said. This is thanks to the creation of the In­dia Su­per League (ISL) in 2013.

One of its or­ga­niz­ers is Star Sport, also the of­fi­cial broad­caster of the league in In­dia. At the end of the first sea­son, the ISL drew 429 mil­lion view­ers across In­dia, two and a half times more than the FIFA World Cup.

“The de­vel­op­ment of mo­bile phones and the in­ter­net also helps with the pop­u­lar­ity of soc­cer,” said Dwivedi. He added that cur­rently, al­most ev­ery soc­cer fan in In­dia has their fa­vorite team.

When it comes to the match be­tween In­dia and China, there will be a win­ner and a loser. How­ever, for some, there is some­thing more im­por­tant than the re­sult.

“The match could be seen as a com­pe­ti­tion be­tween two coun­tries, about 3 bil­lion peo­ple,” read one news on the in­ter­net. If it was Dwivedi who wrote the record, he would not term this match as a “com­pe­ti­tion.” Dwivedi said, “It’s just a friendly match with­out too much com­pe­ti­tion.”

In re­cent times, In­dian soc­cer play­ers have im­proved a lot. Within three years, In­dia has climbed from 173rd to 97th on the FIFA world rank­ings.

“No mat­ter who wins the match, this will be a good ex­pe­ri­ence for those In­dian play­ers play­ing a friendly in China,” said Dwivedi. “It’s a good thing that they’re do­ing it af­ter so many years and it will be a step for­ward for the China-In­dia re­la­tion­ship,” he added.

Photo: VCG

In­dia and China will have a “his­toric” friendly match at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Cen­ter Sta­dium at Suzhou City, Jiangsu Prov­ince on Oc­to­ber 13, 2018.

Photo: VCG

No mat­ter who wins the match, this will be a good ex­pe­ri­ence for both teams.

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