Dortmund's helping hand to Indian football

“We will take it step by step. It might take time to expand in India, but I’m sure this is the right way," says Borussia Dortmund CMO Carsten Cramer.

Stressing on the club's commitment of a long-term relationship, Cramer said: “It is important to fulfill the promises we make."

For long Indian football had failed to cast its shadow across the length and breadth of the country, the sport retaining its popularity only in certain pockets, namely Kerala, Goa, West Bengal and parts of North-East India. The introduction of the Indian Super League in 2014 and the emergence of clubs like Aizawl FC and Minerva Punjab FC have started to provide the game a wider horizon.

The country, however, is yet to have a structured grassroots programme and is lagging behind in identifying and nurturing talent. The arrival of Bundesliga giant Borussia Dortmund could help address the issue. Dortmund is widely known for its youth development programme — which has seen the emergence of many promising stars such as Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Nuri Sahin — and looks to apply the same approach in India and is already in talks with the All India Football Federation.

“We are looking at India. We met the AIFF General Secretary (Kushal Das) two weeks ago in Dusseldorf,” revealed Borussia Dortmund’s chief marketing officer, Carsten Cramer, during a select media interaction at the club's office in Dortmund.

“We will think of a partnership with an ISL club, but we have to look for an authentic and natural connection. We will discuss it with our main sponsors, Puma and Evonik, who have some connections in India. I’m coming to India in early June and will go to Mumbai and Bengaluru to collect some more information. We need to have similarities in the DNA of the club and supporters,” he continued.

Jordan Sancho, 18, made the move from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund in August 2017 in search of first-team football, further highlighting the German club's youth-oriented approach.   -  AP

 

European clubs have already ventured down this path, but the partnerships have failed to stand the test of time. Leicester City's tie up with East Bengal didn't take off and Feyenoord and Atletico de Madrid's relationships with Delhi Dynamos (one season) and Atletico de Kolkata (three seasons) respectively, were cut short.

Bottom to top approach

“Our usual approach is always a bottom-up approach. It’s more of a grassroots start than rushing into the country, playing some friendlies with the professionals and saying that we have established a presence in the country. That’s not the Dortmund way.

“It will be easy for us to increase awareness in India by hiring a talented Indian player for the youth or second team, but we are not a marketing club, we are a football club. We would be happy to hire an Indian player, but we will not do it for the sake of marketing,” Cramer said.

Hopeful of making a mark

While acknowledging the fact that Dortmund isn’t as popular as other European clubs, Cramer is hopeful of making a mark in India. “We want to reach as many people as possible. We have to gain awareness and increase the brand in India. We are not as well-known as Barcelona or Real Madrid.

“We will take it step by step. It might take time to expand in India, but I’m sure this is the right way. We don’t have to be the first ones. Even if 10 others (clubs) are there, there will be space for our story because our story is not a copy and paste of the others,” he noted.

Stressing on the club's commitment of a long-term relationship, Cramer said: “It is important to fulfill the promises we make. We need to reach more people because that’s how the brand will grow.  The people are the main asset of our club.”

The writer was in Germany as part of the Bundesliga Experience with Star Sports Select.

  Dugout videos