LaLiga India Head Jose Cachaza's advice to Indian football: Be patient, keep moving

In a freewheeling chat with Firstpost, Cachaza opens up on his understanding of India and its football (he says he understands that he will never understand India), LaLiga's India outreach and more.

Shantanu Srivastava March 02, 2019 08:07:45 IST
LaLiga India Head Jose Cachaza's advice to Indian football: Be patient, keep moving
  • Jose Cachaza opens up on his understanding of India and its football, LaLiga's India outreach and more.

  • We want to stay ahead of the pack in both traditional as well as digital broadcasting, Cachaza said.

  • Indian football is growing, but to be competitive, you need to grow to international standards, he added.

Madrid: Jose Cachaza, Managing Director of LaLiga India, once went to watch a Twenty20 International (T20I) match at New Delhi's Ferozshah Kotla stadium, and went home with the memories of kids jumping on him while cheering Virat Kohli's strokeplay. The engagement and emotional investment that an Indian fan establishes with his/her cricketing icon is something Cachaza would dearly want to be replicated with the Spanish league, though he is happily realistic about LaLiga's place in India's pecking order.

In a freewheeling chat with Firstpost, Cachaza opens up on his understanding of India and its football (he says he understands that he will never understand India), LaLiga's India outreach and more.

Excerpts:

Last year, LaLiga, through its broadcasters, entered into a partnership with Facebook to live stream important matches in the Indian sub-continent. Looking back, are you happy with the way things turned out?

Well, we are on track to what we want to achieve. Facebook is happy the way things are going and so are we. For any top league or competition across the sporting world, broadcasting rights remain the biggest source of revenue. Thus, our engagement with Facebook is very important business-wise, but more relevant is that we are heavily betting on digital media for many perspectives. We want to be the number one in the way broadcasting is done in the digital era.

We are moving into a world where traditional broadcasters and digital broadcasters can live together. It's a bit like Netflix and CBS co-existing. As I said, we want to stay ahead of the pack in both traditional as well as digital broadcasting.

You have often talked about LaLiga's interest in grassroots development in India. How viable is that?

I would like to make it clear that if LaLiga can help Indian football organisation to develop with our knowledge, we will do it, but it is not our role to develop football in India. That's the job of AIFF, the federal and the regional governments. It is not our role, because we can't do it and we do not have the resources to do it.

We are in touch with certain government agencies and clubs to help them, but we can't overhaul the grassroots structure in India. We have also set up LaLiga schools in certain cities to reach out to the consumers directly.

There's a bit of contradiction there. All your LaLiga schools are located in urban centres, while the grassroots talent invariably comes from villages. How do you address that?

You're right, but our school programmes are for branding and helping people understand football. It is mostly urban because somebody has to pay. You cannot expect an international league to come there and finance your development. Tying up with schools is a good branding opportunity, and our main job there is to help the development of our brand. I agree that things might be happening in the rural areas of Andhra Pradesh or Telangana, but we cannot go everywhere because we have no resources for that.

What is your take on football culture in India?

I think Kolkata is a different world. They have a football culture that is over 100 years old, and they see a crowd of 100,000 people in stadiums. People watch and play football there; there's a proper culture. In north India though, the game is growing through academies that cater to a different socio-economic group. In my personal opinion, football is one of the ways that connects India to the world. Urban India is quite aspirational and wants to look outside and into the world, and I think football helps them relate to the outside world.

Indians are consuming more football than ever. If you go to a Nike shop, you will probably see more football jerseys than cricket jerseys, so that's a good parameter to start with.

And what's your understanding of the Indian consumers?

I think Indians are highly impatient. Any sport needs time to develop, especially when you need to compete with the best. For example, in Mumbai recently, I was asked to compare Indian stadiums with foreign ones. Now obviously, you have a football league that is 5-6 years old whereas in Spain it is over 90 years, Premier League goes back a 100 years...so you need patience.

At the AFC Asian Cup recently, it was a milestone for India to get there and compete. However, the last 30 minutes against Bahrain, you saw a team not used to competing at the international level. It was not about playing, it was about having the mindset to compete. You need time and experience to fail and rise again, and people must realise that. You have a strong league, you have some high-performance academies, and that's the way to go about it.

You talked about impatience; do you think it is more of a cultural thing in India?

Yeah...in India, you have a lot of pressure from the academics side. You need to get into a good university to get a good job, and in order to get into a good university, parents put a lot of pressure on their kids. That is now being transferred to sports too, and that's a huge mistake.

The first thing you need to do is to have more people having fun and playing the game. You need to create an ecosystem that is healthier and doesn't put so much pressure on a kid. Also, having a local hero will help. Let's face it, no Indian players play in Spain or Italy or England, and that start has to happen. But the Indian public must remain patient because such gains happen over a period of years.

How do you compare your reach or impact in India vis-a-vis Premier League (PL) that has been in the Indian market for a number of years?

Honestly, I don't think India is a PL market. Of course, PL has been around for 25-30 years in India while LaLiga has started to make its presence felt only in the last 5-6 years, we don't accept that India is a PL market. If you ask an average Indian fan about his/her favourite player, they'll say its Lionel Messi, and Messi doesn't play for PL.

We are competing with the same level as PL. If you look at the social media following, we have 50 per cent more following than PL; they have 2 million followers in India, we have 3.5. So yes, traditions are hard to fight but they are not simply true.

Over the past few seasons, a number of Indian clubs have held their pre-season camps in Spain. Likewise, we saw Girona playing a pre-season match in India. What's your take on this exchange and are any LaLiga clubs planning an exhibition/ pre-season match in India this year too?

Indian football is growing, but to be competitive, you need to grow to international standards in as many ways as possible. Coming here or sending your good players to train abroad is a step in that direction. In India, we are doing whatever we can to build a healthy relationship with between ISL clubs and LaLiga clubs. We organised a seminar last November in Delhi where we brought all over first division clubs, and one of the highlights of the event was the interaction between ISL clubs and LaLiga clubs.

As for our clubs playing in India, we are in talks with certain clubs. There's nothing concrete yet, but let's hope it happens again.

So what are your long-term goals in India?

We are working to be a more widely known brand in the Indian market. Our goal, like in any other country we go, is to the second most popular league in India, after the domestic league (ISL).

The writer is in Madrid on an invitation from LaLiga.

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