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Lionel Messi to play in Kolkata next week - Friendly match between Argentina and Venezuela on 2 ...

Aug 23, 2011 3:01:42 PM - www.ft.lk

Friendly match between Argentina and Venezuela on 2 Sept earns big bucks; broadcasting rights sold for $1 million

KOLKATA: If you thought no sport can match cricket’s popularity and business potential in India, here is a surprise: a football friendly between Argentina and Venezuela in Kolkata may prove to be the most lucrative 90 minutes in Indian sport, thanks to Lionel Messi.

The Argentine superstar, who scored a brace to help his club Barcelona edge out Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup last week, is the biggest attraction of the September 2 match that is on course to make $4.5 million ( Rs 20 crore) from broadcasting rights, sponsorship deals and ticket sales.
“The game has generated unprecedented interest across India. We expect to generate at least Rs 20-crore revenue as compared to some Rs 10 crore which a one-day cricket match generates,” says Bhaswar Goswami, executive director of sports management company Celebrity Management Group, which is organising the match along with Indian Football Association & All India Football Federation. The country’s apex football body, AIFF, confirms that if the targeted revenue is generated, it will become the biggest money grosser in a single game in the country.
The ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011 was estimated to have generated total receipts of Rs 1,476 crore across 49 matches.
The cost for organising the 2011 World Cup was Rs 571 crore. The 74-match Indian Premier League is an estimated $1-billion business.
The frenzy was the same when Messi’s hero and one-time mentor Diego Maradona visited Kolkata in 2008. But Messi’s influence on the cash register is clearly much more.
If Maradona, who almost single-handedly won the World Cup for Argentina in 1986, was a nostalgia in 2008, Messi, who kept Kolkata glued to television sets till 3 am last Thursday with his mesmerising play against Real Madrid, is a dream in 2011.
“This match will herald the era of international soccer in India and will inspire more such games in the country,” says AIFF Vice-President Subrata Dutta.
Besides Messi, the other big names in the Argentinian squad for the FIFA-approved friendly include Carlos Tevez, Angelo Di Maria and Xavier Mascherano.
Celebrity Management Group (CMG) has already sold the broadcasting rights for the match for $1 million ( Rs 4.5 crore). ESPN has bought the rights for South Asia, and Eurodata for Africa and rest of Asia, while Switzerland-based Kentaro has bought the rights for Europe, North and South America. The match will be telecast live in 150 countries.
The organisers are negotiating with Hero MotoCorp and Cello Pen for title sponsorship for around $450,000 and hope to rake in another $500,000 from other sponsors.
CMG expects $2.5 million ( Rs 11-12 crore) from ticket sales as it expects 80,000 people to attend the match. It has already sold three-fourths of the tickets with huge interest from cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Trivandrum and Goa.
CMG’s Goswami says tickets priced Rs 700 and Rs 2,570 have been sold out.
“We have also sold eight corporate boxes for Rs 7.5 lakh each. It is booked by corporates like the UB Group, film stars and other celebrities,” he adds.
This is not the first time that Kolkata will host celebrity football stars. Soccer legends like Pele, Maradona, Branco, Romario, Diego Forlan and Oliver Kahn have played friendly matches in the city.
The last major international exhibition match in India was in 2008 when German club Bayern Munich played India’s Mohun Bagan in Kolkata in a farewell match for legendary goal keeper Oliver Kahn.
The appetite for international football is on the rise among Indian fans and corporates.