An evening with Bryan Robson – a Goalden Times exclusive
Football is getting growing recognition in India and the time might not be far away when superpowers of world football start playing here. At this juncture, Goalden Times were fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at Manchester United’s plans and how the club is very excited to welcome and engage with its growing fan base in India.
Manchester United is gearing up with exciting plans for Indian fans. Just before they made the official announcement on December 17th, 2015, we at Goalden Times were privileged to get an exclusive interview regarding the same from none other than the club legend Bryan Robson.
One of the biggest football clubs in the world, Manchester United recognizes India’s fast growing fan base and seems keen to spend time with this audience to encourage this wave. The club already has an ongoing presence in the country through their various commercial partners and they had a fantastic response to the fan viewing party they hosted in Delhi earlier this year. The success of this event has led to India being at the top of their list of destinations for 2016 events.
And who can be a more appropriate person than the club legend and current club ambassador, Bryan Robson!!! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the conversation with us.
Goalden Times (GT): Welcome to India Mr. Robson. Fans in India could not wait any longer to see you. Now, considering Manchester United have already toured in South East Asia, when can we see the Red Devils play in India?
Bryan Robson (BR): The club would love to travel to India as part of its pre-season tour, as we know how passionate our fans in India are. We have 35million followers in the country and it would be great to travel over with the first team. However, given the times in which the Premier League plays, it hasn’t been viable for us. Our tours are to prepare for the season ahead and it is very important for team management to ensure that this is done using the right facilities in the right climate.
The club would love to travel to India as part of its pre-season tour, as we know how passionate our fans in India are. We have 35million followers in the country and it would be great to travel over with the first team.
We tour in July and I believe it can be a little wet over in India at that time of year, which you could argue is no different from England, especially Manchester! But I think it is a different kind of rain! We haven’t completely ruled out India as a destination and you never know, if we can get the right infrastructure in place then we may be here someday. In the meantime the club feels it is important that they do have a presence in the country and are constantly in contact with fans, engaging with them through events like ILOVEUNITEDINDIA, which launches in Bangalore on the 17th January at the Amphitheatre, UB city. My colleagues, Dwight Yorke and Quinton Fortune will be visiting the city and watching the Liverpool game with fans. The event is free and fans can apply for a ticket at www.ManUtd.com/ILoveUnitedIndia, but they must sign up and have a ticket to enter.
GT: India is long being hailed as the sleeping giant of World football. But there are problems galore. What, according to you should be of paramount importance for improvement of the game in the country – infrastructure development across age groups, more funding (better pay out to players and officials to attract the youth), or train the trainer approach (educate local coaches / bring in foreign coaches and be patient with them to nurture young footballers).
BR: I think a little bit of everything. You need to have a decent league in place to give the kids playing something to aspire to, but at the same time you need that buy in and enthusiasm from a young age so there an audience for the professional leagues to play to. They both feed off each other.
I think if you can inspire young players and have good coaches in schools then you are half way there. The ISL is becoming more and more popular and I know the club has seen a massive surge in the popularity of football in India in the last few years. We were here earlier this season hosting a similar fan event to ILOVEUNITEDINDIA and the response was fantastic. There is definitely an appetite for football and if the country can approach it the same way it does cricket, well then they will be right up there with the best leagues and the best teams in world.
GT: Have you heard of the ongoing Indian Super League (ISL)? What is your perception of such an initiative?
BR: I have heard of it. I cannot confess to seeing a lot of games, but I know it has attracted a lot of ex- Premier League players. Mikael Silvestre who played for United played in it for a season and has said he really enjoyed the experience. I know that FC Goa are up at the top, closely followed by Atletico de Kolkata, which I believe is a big footballing city.
GT: Have you ever received / heard of any fan mail from India?
BR: Yeah I have over the years because there is interest in football and the fans that do send you things over are passionate and knowledgeable about football. It is always a pleasure to receive fan mail from supporters in India and to learn their take on the game.
GT: What are the future plans for Manchester United to address the growing fan interest in India? Are there any plans from the club to have more fan interaction (through social media or any other avenues)?
BR: The club constantly interacts with all its global fans through social media and its website etc. United also works closely with its commercial partners to connect with fans and a lot of sponsors have been in India with various campaigns, ranging from Manchester United Soccer Schools or other coaching initiatives, so various product campaigns. It is important for us to connect with our fans in India and the fact that we are returning not once, but twice in the New Year is testament to how important our fans there are. We were also in Delhi earlier in the season, so for the club to host three major fan events in one country, in one season says a lot.
I know Quinton (Fortune) and Dwight (Yorke) are really looking forward to visiting Bangalore for the first ILOVEUNITEDINDIA event on 17th January and I hope that all our fans can get behind it and come and enjoy the event. It’s much more than just a screening of the game, which in itself is great. There will also be loads of other activities, competitions and prizes for fans to get involved in.
GT: Thank you Sir, thanks for your time.
BR: It was a pleasure talking to you guys. Hope we shall meet again.