What Syed Nabi Could do for MLS

Syed Nabi offered a trial at DC United: What it would imply to the club and MLS from a marketing perspective
by Anil Kadiyala   |   Thursday, August 29, 2013

#FootyBiz - column on international football business, soccer marketing and finance.

Syed Rahim Nabi, an Indian national footballer currently playing for Mohun Bagan, has been offered a trial by MLS outfit DC United. Nabi would be attending trials organized by DC United in September.

Nabi started his career at the Tata Football Academy (TFA), an academy that is known for producing India’s finest talent since the 1990s. He started his career as a striker at TFA and currently plays as a wingback/winger for Mohun Bagan and India. He is considered to be one of those rare utility players who possess the skill to play in multiple outfield positions.

The 27-year-old lad, who has been playing for the India Men’s National Team since 2004, has been named Player of the Year in 2012 by All India Football Federation (AIFF). Nabi, who is known for his work ethic, was always regarded as a rare talent by his coaches and a player who is respected by all the soccer loving public in India.

So let’s look at what MLS and DC United would benefit from a marketing perspective, if Nabi does get through the trials and is selected to play for the MLS outfit.

Since its inception in 1993, MLS has seen several foreign recruits playing for different clubs. But the arrival of David Beckham in 2007 had made a significant difference. When Beckham signed on those dotted lines for Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, he hadn’t just arrived in America, but he had made the rest of the world take notice of MLS. Today we also have the likes of Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane and Tim Cahill playing in MLS.

Arrival of these top international players has resulted in establishment of the 1st generation of overseas soccer followers who have started to take notice of MLS.

Similarly, if Nabi makes it through the trials and is selected to play for DC United, it might be a boost for MLS in India.

But the last time an Indian signed for an MLS club, it proved to be an unsuccessful tenure. Sunil Chhetri was the 1st Indian player to sign for an MLS club Kansas City Wizards. However, Chhetri was involved in only 1 professional game for the club during his short tenure.

Assuming that Nabi is selected and plays regularly for DC United, the club and league in general is bound to be attracted to the new and potential audience in India who would be keen to watch the progress of this versatile player widely admired by the Indian soccer audience.

With the MLS already being broadcasted in India, the demand for games that DC United is involved in might be high. However, with timings of the MLS games, particularly in the East Coast, being an issue, Indian audiences might be looking for highlights and other programs to keep a tab of their soccer hero.

Assuming that couple of other Indians, including Nabi, do sign for MLS clubs, then there is a very good chance that MLS would witness its 1st generation of soccer fans from India who would start following the league in the coming years.

Having said that there is still long way to go before people living outside America move to the next stage of following MLS closely and picking a club that they might passionately support. But the first stage of following MLS has surely been established in certain countries, and with possibility of Indian players being involved in coming years, the league would also witness fans from this highly populated country turning their attention towards MLS.

I cannot speak on behalf of the officials involved with MLS and the clubs, but if at all they are intent on taking the league to a global stage, like how English Premier League (EPL) had done a decade or 2 ago with their marketing strategies, then signing good players from Asian countries would surely help their marketing cause in Asia.


Robert Gordon Univ.
Club Domestic:
Club Foreign:
Liverpool FC
A sports enthusiast and a soccer freak who previously worked in various sectors outside sports but eventually had to respond to the love of his life and at present working as a sports marketing professional.