By Gareth Conde
Now that the hysteria and hype generated by Lionel Messi’s appearance in Kolkata has died down, the big question is: what has it done for football in India?
Organisers argued how it would boost Indian football but the cynical view is that it was just a marketing exercise and the T-shirt sellers at Kolkata’s BC Roy market were the main beneficiary of the Argentina-Venezuela friendly.
Whereas the 120,000 capacity Salt Lake stadium has been filled in the past for Mohun Bagan and East Bengal games, 90,000 turned out on Friday. It may be a large turnout elsewhere but for a match in Kolkata involving an Argentina team skippered by the current FIFA world player of the year Messi, it was pretty disappointing.
The reason for those empty seats was ticket pricing. With the majority priced between 1,000 and 5,120 Indian rupees, many lower income fans were effectively ‘priced out’.
If the real motivation of the match was to promote India and further the game, pricing needed to be more in tune with the disposable income of the average Kolkatan.