Paris, Oct 21: Europe's top football side Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) is determined to become a major player in Indian football but the club is unlikely to send its first team to India in a pre-season tour next year even though it will continue to work on its existing two academies in the country.
There were reports that PSG may send its first team next year for a pre-season tour in India and few other Asian countries in its bid to increase its fan base and brand value in the vast market in the continent but Frederic Longuepee, PSG General Manager (Business Activities), was non-committal about it.
Reigning Ligue 1 (French top tier league) champions PSG are among the top seven clubs in the world in terms of revenue and they had reached semifinals of the UEFA Champions League for the past four successive years.
They are trying to promote their brand and fan base in Asian countries like India, China and Indonesia among others.
PSG runs two academies in India -- in Gurgaon and in Bengaluru -- as part of its football grassroots development project in the country. "India is perhaps the last untapped big football market in the world.
We prefer starting slowly but surely we will remain relevant in the country (India). Maybe one day in 2017, 2018 or 2019, we could consider sending a youth team or potentially a professional team because we believe that when we can we need to send the players.
Should it be the young team or the female team or the male team, it should promote PSG in the country and meet the fans. It is a long process and we don't want to burn bridges," Longuepee told a group of Asian journalists at the Parc des Princes stadium.
"We have two academies in India (Gurgaon) and Bangalore to promote the PSG brand. But we have not decided yet what would be the next step in India.
"Obviously, India is on our radar screen because sooner than later this country will be opened to football. Who knows India will host the World Cup (in future).
"But it is complicated because it is a big country and cultures are different. You have many many different cultures within India.
"We are patient and we want to learn the culture. We don't want to be going too fast or having the team play friendly games for the sake of it and then come back," he added.
It is learned that PSG have been searching for a company It is learned that PSG have been searching for a company in India to become its partner in brand building and in working on this kind of pre-season tours.
And Longuepee confirmed that PSG had been in discussion with a big Indian company to be its partner though he did not disclose the name of the firm.
"We have engaged in a discussion with an Indian company, a big one, which chose PSG among other clubs to help promote PSG brand in India and to eventually build a partnership.
"This company will help us promote the brand on the digital side and on the field as well. We believe this company will help us in tapping the Indian market.
"This could end up playing our team in India in friendly games. It is a long process and we have to be patient. We are ambitious but will have to be patient," the official said.
Talking about the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in India, he said, "That would be an opportunity for many clubs which can open themselves to the country in a much different way."
Longuepee also said that it has no immediate plans to get itself associated with any team in the hugely successful Indian Super League which is into its third edition this year.
"There are many ways to penetrate a market. You could buy a team or partner a team or have a share in a team or start by creating academies in the country to be able to remain relevant and promote the brand.
"But we have not decided yet apart from the fact that we believe that teaching football and football values to the kids is the best thing to do for the moment. We don't eliminate any avenue and we are just learning in a humble way," he said.
"We are very patient. We tried to stay on board when it comes to penetrating markets. India is opening to football.
"We know cricket has been dominant for many many years but we believe that the younger generation in India is opening up to football.
"Sooner than later we believe that this young generation will probably play more football more than cricket." Asked if there were any issues to be sorted out in the PSG academies in Gurgaon and Bengaluru, he said,
"The main objective is to see that more and more kids play football in PSG jersey. Right now we are evaluating the relevance of having two academies or to maintain just one, a big one, we don't know yet.
"It also depends on the appetite of kids to play football. So, we might open a third one or we might keep just one will depend on the appetite of the kids or the area we decide to open the academy."