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.

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