Indian-American US football chief looks at IPL for tips

"That was a phenomenal launch," said Allahabad-born Gulati, 51, credited with the rise of the US football team, in a webcast Friday over BlogTalkRadio, when asked if he could give Indians a few tips about marketing sports events.

"With the commercialisation of sports, you have got to get the product right and they did that. They got the best players in the world," said the man under whose leadership over the last four years the US team ended its World Cup campaign in South Africa in the round of 16.

But Gulati, who juggles his time leading the US effort to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup and his job as a professor of economics at Columbia University, is not sure "how easily that can be replicated in any other sport."

"Because Indian cricket is pretty unique, I am not sure whether it can be done with soccer, football or any other sport," he said. "But what IPL did was phenomenal."
"They took the best of the lot, best practices from around the world," said Gulati. "We could learn from what they did in fact."

However, Gulati, who grew up playing soccer in a small town in Nebraska, where his parents moved when he was five years old, is more than willing to lend his expertise to India in the field of football. One of the US national coaches went out to India to work with the women's national team programme and he himself has had a dialogue with the Indian football federation leadership "about other things we can do"

"Those kind of things will continue," Gulati said. "In the end, the programmes and processes will have to be put in place and whether it's US or India, will have to be domestically run and domestically led."

"But there are any number of things we can share whether it's how to compete in a large market place or sport where you are not the number one."

Asked why there weren't too many South Asians in the sporting world, Gulati said two big parts of the puzzle were genetic issues like "physical ability and physical stature" and parents' emphasis on school, academic pursuits and profession rather than sports.

"Sports is not high up on the totem pole in terms of their brief and they obviously inform their children," he said pointing out that in his own case too "for a long time my being involved in sports was a closet obsession."

Elected USSF president in March 2006 after six years as vice-president, Gulati is one of the most influential figures in the development of US soccer over the last 30 years.

Former USSF president and Major League Soccer founder Alan Rothenberg called Gulati "the single most important person in the development of soccer in this country."

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