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Last Updated : Oct 09, 2019 10:46 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

ISL's vision is to develop a football ecosystem in India: Nita Ambani at Sports Business Summit

Nita Ambani was addressing the Sports Business Summit in London

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Nita Ambani, Chairperson of Indian Super League (ISL), on October 8, shared her vision for Indian football and said she would like to see India play at the FIFA World Cup.

She was speaking at the Sports Business Summit in London, which is part of Leaders' Week London 2019 event.

Ambani shared with the gathering that seeing her son watch football matches waking up in the middle of the night made her realise 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".

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"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," Ambani, who is also the founder and chairperson of Reliance Foundation, said.

Reliance Foundation's ISL started in 2014 with eight franchises based in Kolkata, Chennai, Kerala, Goa, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and the whole of NorthEast. Over the last five years of existence, the ISL has grown in stature. It was expanded to ten teams in the 2017-18 with Bengaluru FC, a former I-League club, and Jamshedout FC coming into the fold.

From this season onwards, Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City have been disbanded and Odisha FC and Hyderabad FC have been added as the league remains a 10-team affair. The league is all set to start from October 20.

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," she said.

"Our grassroots programme in football has so far reached out to over 1.5 million children. Our youth sports programme 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 family to see football as a viable career option for their children. ISL has truly been a game changer for thousands of young Indian footballers," Ambani 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.

Disclaimer: Reliance Industries Ltd. is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd.

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First Published on Oct 8, 2019 10:21 pm
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