INDIAN FOOTBALL

Why did India turn down friendlies against Argentina?

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India declined the opportunity to host Lionel Messi’s Argentina for a friendly during this month’s international window, due to the expensive expense of hosting the world champions,.

Given the fervent support the world champions received at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar last month, Argentina was eager to play two friendly this month between June 12 and June 20 in south Asia.

“The Argentina FA reached out to us for a friendly, but it was just not possible to arrange such a huge sum,” AIFF secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran said on Monday to TOI. “For such a match to happen here, we need the backing of a strong partner. The kind of money that Argentina command (as appearance fee) is huge and we have limitations in terms of our economic situation in football.”

Head of international relations Pablo Joaquin Diaz spoke on behalf of the Argentina FA in negotiations with AIFF. Argentina has become the most sought-after football team since winning the World Cup. With Messi’s squad fetching a cost of $4–$5 million (about Rs. 32–40 crore).

India rejected Argentina ‘s offer for friendlies

Argentina’s original schedule called for them to play two friendlies in South Asia. One in Bangladesh and the other in India. However, none of those nations were able to raise the money on short notice. Thus the world champions were forced to face Australia in Beijing on June 15 and Indonesia in Jakarta on June 19.

The world champions reportedly declined the opportunity to play friendlies in the United States during this window. In order to pursue a strategy to maximise on their international popularity.

Argentina and India are ranked differently. Therefore the AIFF would have had to find another team to play the world champions. India is rated 101 places behind Argentina, which is now recognised as the top country in the world.

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If India had faced Argentina, there would have been a “too much of a mismatch,” according to Prabhakaran.

The Argentina FA’s chief of foreign affairs, Diaz, has persisted in talking with Prabhakaran. And sooner or later the two nations may come to an agreement over a partnership.

India’s call on the matter

“We are interested in having some sort of partnership with the Argentina FA. There is lot of interest from Argentina too, even from their clubs,” added Prabhakaran.

Hugo Javier Gobbi, Argentina’s ambassador to India, sent Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan a jersey in the beginning of the year. It was as a thank you for the state’s support of Argentina during the World Cup in Qatar.

This is not the first time India has passed away a chance to face the world’s finest football team, Argentina in this case. India was asked to play Brazil sometime in 2006. But the AIFF declined owing to a conflicting schedule and concern about a potentially devastating defeat. Italy sought to play in India in November 1950. As they were the defending World Cup champions at the time the talks took place. Ultimately, the tour called off, probably for financial reasons. Netherlands also previously sent an invitation. London was the location of the game. However, the offer was not in favour.

Argentina has played in India previously in 2011. Messi lead the squad to a 1-0 victory over Venezuela at the Salt Lake stadium, where 85,000 people watched before leaving ecstatic.

India would have had the opportunity to witness Messi and Argentina win the global championship this time, but at a significant cost.

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