In 1977 a team with soccer legend Pele play a friendly match in Kolkata, India against local side Mohun Bagan. Thirty-four years later the Argentine and Venezuelan national teams played in an exhibition match in that city with the former beating the latter by a score of 1-0.
Star player Lionel Messi made his debut as captain of los albicelestes in that game that was played last week. But could his celebrity status help spur the development of soccer in India? Or will it require grassroots efforts like those in Venezuela, where soccer has grown despite the sport's secondary status compared to baseball? It remains to be seen if the "Messi effect" has any substantial impact for a country whose lone qualification to the World Cup finals came over sixty years ago.
Video Source - Al Jazeera English via YouTube
Online Sources - New American Media, India Today, AFP