As chairperson of the Indian Super League, Nita Ambani has a deep connect with professional football in the country. But her vision and dream for the sport goes far beyond bringing the world’s best professionals to play in India. The ISL chairperson rather wants to see India playing the FIFA World Cup finals.
The non-executive director of Reliance Industries has revealed her dream at the Sports Business Summit in London, part of Leaders’ Week London 2019.
“It is my dream to see India perform at the pinnacle of global football and qualify for the FIFA World Cup,” she said while speaking about the success of Indian Super League. “This calls for the development of a vibrant ecosystem in the country – that is the vision of ISL,” she added and revealed that seeing her son watch football matches late at the night made her realize the amount of interest and love the younger generation had for the ‘beautiful game’ and that is what made her feel that football had “a big opportunity in India”, states a report by news18.com.
“This motivated me to watch the Indian Super League for football in 2014. I’m pleased to share that in just 5 years, ISL has emerged as the third most-watched league in India. ISL viewership for 2018-19 on TV alone was 168 million and digital viewership was over 12 million,” said the founder and chairperson of Reliance Foundation.
Reliance Foundation has established the ISL as India’s premier professional club football league in a span of five years ever since its inception in 2014. She attributed ISL’s advent to the success of the Indian national football team saying after 2014, India’s “FIFA ranking has shot up from 173 to 96.”
“It is now my dream to see India perform at the pinnacle of global football and qualify for the FIFA World Cup. This calls for the development of a vibrant ecosystem in the country – that is the vision of ISL.
“Our grassroots program in football has so far reached out to over 1.5 million children. Our youth sports program for schools and colleges has reached out to 9 million children. The Reliance Foundation Junior NBA program has reached out to 11 million children. Overall across all sports, Reliance Foundation has reached out to over 21.5 million children across the country. 10 years ago, it would have been unthinkable for Indian families to see football as a viable career option for their children. ISL has truly been a game-changer for thousands of young Indian footballers,” she added.
Nita Ambani went on to announce two pilot project that the Reliance Foundation would take up under the aegis of ISL this year, starting November.
“The children’s league, which is expected to reach out to over 40,00 children under the age of 12 in the next 3 years and the U-17 women’s football tournament – the first-ever women’s tournament – to scout for talent for India’s football team and this team will go on to represent India in the U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup to be hosted in India in 2020,” Ambani announced.