Stuttgart: Borussia Dortmund are planning to bring their legends team to India for exhibition football matches this season as part of their strategy for the Indian market. The Bundesliga giants, who won the German league in 2010-11 and 2011-12, are also looking for a partner club in India.
"We are indeed searching for our first Indian partner club," COO of BVB, Carsten Cramer, told Firstpost. "During my first visit to India in June 2018, I met different stakeholders of the Indian football ecosystem, besides representatives and owners of various clubs of Indian Super League, I-League and even second division of I-League. For us at Borussia Dortmund, it is not primarily relevant in which league our first Indian partner club is playing in fact for us it is much more important to find the right club which is run by people who understand our club culture and who share our passion and values for football. For us at Borussia Dortmund, this means also the understanding of the importance of a sustainable grassroots and youth system as a base for meaningful and successful club development."
In recent years, Borussia Dortmund have turned their attention to Asian markets and have inked partnerships with Thailand's Buriram United (in 2018), Singapore's Warriors FC (in 2018), China's Shandong Luneng (in 2017) and the Malaysian state of Johor in 2015.
Having travelled to the west for the past two years for pre-season games, Dortmund have also announced that their first team will travel to Asia next season for pre-season games. While the management is yet to take a call on which countries to visit, India is one of the names in the mix.
Dortmund's legends team has previously played in Hong Kong (against Liverpool legends team in June this year) and Thailand (against the legends team of Buriram United in 2018). Players like 2014 FIFA World Cup winner Roman Weidenfeller, 1997 UEFA Champions League winners Karl-Heinz Riedle, Julio Cesar, Paul Lambert and JÃ¶rg Heinrich, were among those on the pitch for these games. Other former Borussia players included Florian Kringe, Jan Koller, Patrick Owomoyela, Mladen Petric, Mioslav Stevic, Dede, Evanilson, Ewerthon and Tinga.
The club believes that organising a legends game in India is a precursor for sending their youth team to the country with a population of over a billion. This, in turn, will set the stage for the main team to visit for a pre-season tour.
Borussia's arch-rivals from Germany, Bayern Munich, were one of the earliest European clubs to send their main team to India on a few occasions, most notably in May 2008, when German legend Oliver Kahn played in his farewell game at Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium against Mohun Bagan. Four years later, the leading lights of Bayern Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger were on the pitch to play against the Indian national team in what was the farewell game of Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia. However, since that game Bayern's main team has not visited India.
The club already has four registered fan clubs in India. But the club's interest in India is also said to have been piqued by the positive feedback of Jadon Sancho and Sergio Gomez two of their young players who were in India for the FIFA U-17 World Cup two years ago and the hits their social media channels receive from India. It is learnt that the club is also in the process of setting up a dedicated social media strategy for India which it feels will help it bridge the geographical gap between Dortmund and India.
The club will also ramp up its activities in India this season with more match screenings and visits from club legends like JÃ¶rg Heinrich and Patrick Owomoyela.
The writer is in Germany as part of the Robert Bosch Media Ambassadors Program.