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Is opportunity about the game or marketing?

Sunil Chhetri has been one of the best strikers in recent years India has produced, with an exceptional goal-scoring record with the national team. Having played with some of the biggest and most successful clubs in the country, Chhetri jumped at the opportunity to join a team in Major League soccer, the Kansas City Wizards, after previous unsuccessful attempts with Coventry City and Queens Park Rangers (QPR).

The debut was made and a goal was scored followed by a hat-trick against University sides; certainly a bright start which one would have thought of as a sign of the good times to come for the Delhi lad. He did feature against Colorado Rapids in the Lamar Hunt US Open play-in game where he was substituted after the opening half.

Thereafter, one doesn’t get to hear much and in pops the news of the striker to feature against Manchester United who are to play a friendly against the Wizards on the 25th of this month as part of their pre-season tour. Certainly, a great news for Indian football fans and Chhetri.

Don’t call me a pessimist but consider this. The Americans haven’t yet included Chhetri in their registered players list for the MLS and out of nowhere, you get to hear that he shall play against the Red Devils.

Manchester United are one of the most followed sides in this part of the world and with the former AIFF Player of the Year coming up against them is a perfect mix for them to popularize their brand. The same goes for the Wizards and it certainly ensures enough publicity in the Indian media with zero costs! It’s a win-win situation.

If you still have doubts on this, they are bound to be quashed soon. The 12th placed club in the MLS sent a press release stating that Chhetri would indeed play against the former European champions. Did we last get a release from the club that he shall play in the US Open game? I can’t seem to remember.

In addition to it, the press release detailed how the Indian fans can view the game which is through a subscribed service of Manchester United TV costing Rs. 325, with the highlights to be viewed on the official site of the Wizards.

Obviously, this would increase the subscription of the MUTV in India and familiarize Indians with this feature. The club terms the game against the English club as a ‘marquee’ match and it’s only logical that you play your best players in that game as opposed to someone who hasn’t been playing off-late.


More Eyeballs For Kansas City Wizards

Earlier Wizards vice president of communications Rob Thomson said that the media interest surrounding Chhetri has been the strongest he’s seen for a player since he started with the club in 1997.

It’s not about being deprecatory or a complainer of this whole exercise, but just that as an Indian, we would be pleased to see people take our players more seriously.

If you think that the Wizards are using this platform to check how much Chhetri has improved then one needn’t be a rocket scientist to know that Manchester United are several notches higher than the MLS clubs. If the only game he played against a MLS side was in a pre-season friendly, then how do they consider him out of the blue to play against some of the best players in the world and excel so much that it impresses their coach?

As a player, of course one would get excited considering that it’s a dream for every footballer to play against teams like Manchester United. Who wouldn’t want that?!

We would support Chhetri and show the doubting Thomases that Indians can play football and aren’t just marketing props anymore.

All the best, Chhetri!

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