Mrs. Nita Ambani: New India a land of limitless opportunities in sports

Mrs. Nita Ambani, member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Founder Chairperson, Reliance Foundation called upon the global leaders in sports to see India as a land of limitless opportunities and invited them to be part of the journey of the world’s youngest nation’s fast-growing sports ecosystem.

Delivering a keynote speech ‘Inspiring A Billion Dreams : The India Opportunity’, at the Leaders Week 2019 London, Mrs. Nita Ambani presented a glimpse into how young India has taken massive strides in the world of sports and is poised to become a sporting powerhouse with over 600 million of its billion-plus population under the age of 25 coupled with a fast-growing economy.

Mrs. Nita Ambani said, “There is no reason why a nation of 1.3 billion people cannot be amongst leading medal-winners on the international stage. It is my hope and dream to see India host some of the most iconic sporting championships in the world like the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. I invite everyone to join us and be a part of the great Indian dream – the India opportunity.”

Presenting a compelling case on Indian sports, Mrs. Nita Ambani observed, "New India is a land of limitless opportunities and it today presents the most exciting time for sports in India. There has never been an environment more conducive, more encouraging, more enabling for sports, than what we have in India today."

One prime example of India's recent surge in the sporting realm has been the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL). Mrs. Nita Ambani, who is also the Founding Chairperson of Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), also illustrated how the Hero ISL was a culmination of the nation's inherent love for the beautiful game.

"As a teacher and a mother, I knew children in our school would wake up in the middle of the night to watch the Premier League. That is when I realized that the younger generation had a huge interest in football. I saw that there was a big opportunity in India for this beautiful game," said Mrs. Nita Ambani.

In just five years, the Hero ISL has emerged as the third-most-watched league in India. Hero ISL viewership for 2018-19 on TV alone was 168 million, and digital viewership was over 12 million.

The Hero ISL has also provided a platform for thousands of youngsters to see football as a viable career option - something that Mrs. Nita Ambani feels was ‘unthinkable’ even ten years ago in an Indian household.

Citing the example of Sandesh Jhingan, now an established player for his Hero ISL club Kerala Blasters FC and also the Indian national team. "When Jhingan started out in the Hero ISL, he was bought for just 3000 dollars. Today, he draws a salary of a hundred and eighty thousand dollars - 60 times over his starting salary," she stated.

The Hero ISL has not only changed the footballing ecosystem in the country at the professional level but at the grassroots level too, reaching out to over 1.5 million children.

In her speech, Mrs. Nita Ambani praised the current Indian government for promoting a healthy sports culture in the country. "We are fortunate that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a great vision to transform India into a global sporting powerhouse. In addition to promoting Yoga globally, Prime Minister Modi has recently launched two major initiatives to promote sport. The Khelo India programme and the ambitious Fit India movement," she said.

Summing up, Mrs. Nita Ambani spoke of her three objectives she hopes to achieve – to make sure no child is deprived of sport and hoped the ‘Right to Sport’ could be declared as a fundamental right; to see India emerge as a global sports powerhouse; and sports acting as a medium of peace, amity and understanding in the world, as she paid tribute to the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

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