The Telegraph
Tuesday , May 13 , 2014
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TSG’s India sojourn

- ‘Have come to see the football culture and soak in the atmosphere’
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim players and support staff, in the city, on Monday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: German club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim landed at a “deserted” Calcutta on Monday evening from New Delhi. It’s a whirlwind tour of eight-days where they will travel to Aizwal on Tuesday afternoon to play against a Mizoram XI in the evening.

They would come back to the city on Wednesday and have lined up a football clinic as well as a visit to Srishti, an NGO. Thursday evening they will be flying to Goa for another clinic. They leave for Frankfurt in the wee hours of Monday.

“We played our last match of the Bundesliga on Saturday which we won against Eintracht Braunschweig 3-1 and took a flight on Sunday. Yeah we know it’s very hectic. But our coach (Markus Gisdol) wanted a place which has cultural and social history. So we decided to visit India.

“We know Bayern Munich played in Calcutta and it was Oliver Kahn’s testimonial match.

“That also played a role in deciding India as a destination,” club’s general manager and director sports Alexander Rosen said on Monday.

Hoffenheim finished ninth, but Rosen is happy with the performance. “Oh it’s a good show… We are one of the youngest teams of the Bundesliga and taking on the might of teams like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund is a big achievement,” he said.

Hoffenheim have come without three of their first-team players — Kevin Volland, Sejad Salihovic and Fabian Johnson — who are in the provisional World Cup squads of their respective countries. While Volland is with the German national team, Salihovic and Johnson are with Bosnian and US national squads.

“My intention was to have the team together for another week after a successful, but exhausting season,” coach Gisdol said. “It will also give us the opportunity to reflect and analyse the season. Hence this tour.”

Rosen said the squad is looking forward to playing in Aizwal. “It’s a virgin territory for us. We are told football in that part of the India is a big thing.”

Rosen is aware of the fact that cricket has a huge following in India.

“We know cricket is hugely popular in India. But football also has its presence. Even hockey is very popular, here. And then you have the Indian Super League coming up, where a team of Atletico Madrid’s stature is one of the co-owners of a franchise.”

So will Hoffenheim show interest in ISL? “As of now there are no plans. We have come to see the football culture and soak in the atmosphere.”