Languages
Page last updated at 04:48 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 05:48 UK

German football team in Calcutta

By Rahul Tandon
BBC News, Calcutta

German football legend Oliver Kahn plays in Calcutta
This will be German legend Oliver Kahn's final match

The German football team Bayern Munich has become one of the first major European clubs to play in India, at a match in the eastern city of Calcutta.

Organisers say 120,000 spectators watched them take on local side Mohan Bagan at the Salt Lake Stadium.

Their visit comes at a time when the sport is becoming increasingly popular in a country which is cricket crazy.

The friendly was also the farewell game for German football legend Oliver Kahn, who retires after 22 years.

Cricket boring?

Bayern Munich arrived at the Calcutta Cricket and Football club to pass on some tips to some promising youngsters.

The visit of the German champions comes at a time when more and more Indian youngsters - particularly from the middle classes - are watching and playing the beautiful game.

Children hold up a welcome poster in India during the visit of Bayern Munich players
Football has been steadily gaining in popularity in India

Drive around Calcutta at the moment and instead of seeing posters of the Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan, you will find yourself looking up at billboards of goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.

Ramjit and Sanjoy were in the crowd that watched the match on Wednesday.

I asked them if they thought that football can ever rival cricket in India.

"If Bayern Munich can come down here why can football not compete with cricket? It is just a slow ongoing process. There are kids who like watching football, they prefer it to cricket as cricket is getting boring," says Ramjit.

"It [football] is not as big as it once was. Every sport in this country is secondary to cricket. But it is again picking up and with Bayern Munich coming to India and Calcutta on a regular basis, it is making an impact," said Sanjoy.

Teams from Bayern have visited before, but this is the first time the senior squad are playing in India.

The reason they have is money.

This is one of the fastest growing football markets in the world.

Walk around any of the big cities in India and you will see youngsters wearing Manchester United and Chelsea jerseys.

So expect other clubs from Europe to be playing here in India soon.

Indians are less inclined to watch their own football league and while many youngsters play the game, a proper infrastructure needs to be put in place to nurture talent.

This match has been an emotional one - it was the last ever game that Bayern legend Oliver Kahn played for the club.

It may be the end of an era for him, but for India this game could mark a new chapter in its football history.


SEE ALSO
Soccer seduces cricket-crazy India
26 Feb 04 |  South Asia
Leicester agree India deals
04 Feb 04 |  Leicester
Indian street kids given new goal
22 Sep 03 |  South Asia
Football film spurs on Indian girls
17 Jan 03 |  South Asia
India soccer star joins UK club
30 Sep 99 |  South Asia
India's record-breaking Nigerian
05 Nov 02 |  Africans abroad
India seeks soccer revival
24 Jul 00 |  South Asia

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific