Kolkata:In his first visit to India as FIFA President, Joseph Sepp Blatter was on Sunday given a glimpse of how strong the world's most popular game is in the city of Kolkata.
The 71-year-old Blatter was given a tour of the three big Kolkata clubs - Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammadan Sporting. Hundreds of soccer lovers almost mobbed him as he made a trip to Kolkata's famous Maidaan. And what better day for this historic occasion, than the Bengali New Year
In the evening, Blatter was treated to a East Bengal-Mohan Bagan tie at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan.
"When he gave us a date, we saw it was the same day as the Bengali New Year, and we didn't say no. For Bengalis, football is really important, after rice and fish comes football. I think he has added a new dimension to our new year," said Subrata Dutta, secretary, IFA.
Ticket prices for Sunday's game were reduced to as low Rs 10 to draw more crowds. Meanwhile, the All India Football Federation is spending around almost Rs 50 lakh to play good hosts to the FIFA President and his officials. Blatter, who is on just his second trip to India, is a great supporter of Asian football and has huge hopes with India.
"In such a big country, you need administration, need human resources in management, coaching. Football has to be brought into the socio-cultural milieu. There is a need for football pitches, smaller stadia. There has to be school leagues, states leagues - all that will come under the umbrella of the AIFF," said Blatter.
Next on Blatter's agenda is a visit to the capital on Monday where he is expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and various other dignitaries along with some of the top Indian corporates.