Why LaLiga Onboarded Rohit Sharma As Their Offical Football Ambassador

Why LaLiga Onboarded Rohit Sharma As Their Offical Football Ambassador

European football’s popularity has unmasked India’s football fans. Federations and leagues are now synergising to build up the sport at a grassroots level through player development, local tournaments and year-round fan engagement. Here’s what some stakeholders have to say…

Tsunami CostabirUpdated: Monday, June 17, 2024, 08:20 AM IST
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It's no secret that cricket takes the lion’s share of sponsorships and viewership in India. And all the other sports, whether it's basketball, football, kabaddi, etc., end up competing in a 15% bracket, Aakriti Vohra, Global Delegate at LaLiga, tells us. 

The Indian Super League (ISL) was founded in the year 2013 by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL). But they couldn’t initially reach their goals in terms of creating a strong fan base.  

Reliance’s General Manager of Integration and Sports Affairs, Chirag Tanna, said at a LaLiga webinar, “The ISL was a two-month tournament followed by the I-League. It was not cohesive enough to build interest among fans. But today, we have a nine-month calendar in line with what other countries that have well-developed football are doing. There is always something for fans to consume.” Evidently, the amount of tournaments and content being churned out is at an all-time high. 

Seeing the massive potential the country holds and the lack of young footballers the country produces, some bridges needed to be built. LaLiga then set up their grassroots program in India in 2018. LaLiga is the mammoth league where some of the world’s greatest clubs, like Barcelona and Real Madrid, compete. They have a presence in over 40 countries and India has been a particularly unique market for them to crack. 

Rather than competing with the country’s favourite, cricket, they’ve taken a rather unusual route, onboarding Rohit Sharma, captain of the Indian cricket team, as their first-ever non-football ambassador. LaLiga made the forward move of using the popularity of cricket to their advantage. Their Academy in India is now present in 14 cities, with 31 centres and has over 3,500 kids. They also have collaborations with the Reliance Foundation Young Champions and Reliance Youth Championship that synergise to focus on player development. 

For inclusive development, they have started the Rural Development Trust, where over 3,500 girls and boys play in a rural league supported by LaLiga through merchandise. They have also launched a fully residential girls' academy, where 20 girls are taken care of with fully paid scholarships for their education and are also learning football the LaLiga way.

Their skill-based platform is for kids to pursue and fall in love with football with a futuristic plan of making loyal LaLiga fans and then pulling them into the league, where they become eventual brand ambassadors. An example of this is Kajol D’souza, who trained at the LaLiga Academy in India and bagged a full scholarship to train in Madrid. She went on to represent India at the FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup. “We've seen that the Indian consumer appreciates when you show serious commitment to a long-term project,” says Aakriti.

JSW Sports has also been a big part of this community. They gave India its highest-ranked football club, Bengaluru FC, and help develop infrastructure for the sport in India. At a LaLiga webinar, JSW Sports’ COO, Divyanshu Singh, spoke about what it takes for a sport to gain popularity in a country. “A key driver of the popularity is having icons that people can look up to. India is a nation of hero worshippers, and we’ve seen this effect with people like Pullela Gopichand in badminton and Neeraj Chopra in athletics,” he said. Their achievements and subsequent idolisation make them marketable personalities while also increasing the popularity of the sport.


A lot is being done in the world of Indian football. New leagues, tournaments, programs for young talent and investment in infrastructure and training. The synergy between organisations is creating one healthy football ecosystem. And, “in time, we will see a World Cup where we can support India,” Aakriti signs off.

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