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The Bundesliga club have a tight itinerary but hope to make most of it to learn India’s footballing culture

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, the German Bundesliga Club, landed in Kolkata on Monday to kick off their busy and short India tour, all of eight days, which will begin with an exhibition match against the Mizoram XI in the evening.

They will then travel back to Kolkata to take part in a football clinic that has been arranged in the city alongside a visit to an NGO named ‘Shrishti’. They will then carry on to Goa, where they have another football clinic scheduled before heading back to Germany on Monday.

The squad to take the Indian tour remains largely the same that participated in the Bundesliga minus the presence of Kevin Volland, Sejad Salihovic and Fabian Johnson, all of whom have been called up for World Cup duty by Germany, Bosnia and the United States respectively.

The club’s general manager and director of sports Alexander Rosen, explaining his decision to tour India immediately after the last match of their Bundesliga campaign, said to The Telegraph, “We played our last match of the Bundesliga on Saturday which we won against Eintracht Braunschweig 3-1 and took a flight on Sunday. Yeah we know it’s very hectic. But our coach (Markus Gisdol) wanted a place which has cultural and social history. So we decided to visit India.

“We know Bayern Munich played in Calcutta and it was Oliver Kahn’s testimonial match. That also played a role in deciding India as a destination.”

When asked to shed light on his club’s league record, where they achieved a ninth place finish, Rosen elucidated, “Oh it’s a good show. We are one of the youngest teams of the Bundesliga and taking on the might of teams like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund is a big achievement.”

“My intention was to have the team together for another week after a successful, but exhausting season.It will also give us the opportunity to reflect and analyse the season. Hence this tour,” revealed coach Marcus Gisdol.

Rosen was excited to tour Aizwal as he believed it represented unchartered territory for the club as he admitted to knowing cricket is the most widely followed game in the country.
“It’s a virgin territory for us. We are told football in that part of the India is a big thing. We know cricket is hugely popular in India. But football also has its presence. Even hockey is very popular, here. And then you have the Indian Super League coming up, where a team of Atletico Madrid’s stature is one of the co-owners of a franchise,” stressed the German.

Finally, the director was quizzed on whether his club had any intention to follow Atletico Madrid and own a franchisee to participate in Indian Super League (ISL) to which he clarified, “As of now there are no plans. We have come to see the football culture and soak in the atmosphere.”