FIFA World Cup 2018: Pakistan remains official football provider while China, Vietnam beat India in supplies

New Delhi: Pakistan 2, India 0; China 1, India 0 That’s what the scorecard would look like if the performance of sporting goods manufacturing clusters of India, Pakistan and China were considered at this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.

While Pakistan has once again earned the honour of manufacturing the official match ball – Telstar 18 – China has outdone India in supplying footballs to European countries that place bulk orders for promotional purposes. Surprisingly, a new player, Vietnam, has dribbled past India in securing bulk orders.

While India has never earned the distinction of making the official match ball for the world’s biggest football tournament, there has been a drastic fall this time in orders for balls used for associated purposes, said football manufacturers in Jalandhar.

According to Tilak Khinder, export director of Rattan Brothers, a maker of sporting goods with over four decades of experience in the industry, his firm manufactured almost 400,000 balls during the previous World Cup, of which 80,000 footballs were ordered by FIFA for promotion and other purposes. This year, Khinder received orders for only 20,000 footballs.

Indian football manufacturers are cramped by lack of capacity, dearth of skilled labour, poor infrastructure and the rupee exchange rate. A new addition is the scaling down of excise and duty refunds after the goods and services tax was introduced a year ago.

“After GST, the refund on excise has gone to nil since it stands subsumed in GST, while the refund on customs duty has gone down from 10.5% to a negligible 1%,” said Vikas Gupta, MD of Soccer International, a manufacturer and distributor of sports equipment.

The dollar conversion rate in India is another key factor, said Aman Chopra of Shant Sports Industries in Jalandhar. Compared with about Rs 69 per dollar in India, the rate in Pakistan is close to Rs 122. Gupta said the number of skilled workers who stitch footballs has gone down.

“The younger crop prefers working in malls than stitching footballs. The older generation has retired long ago and no one has taken forward its legacy,” Chopra said.

(DEMAND FOR PAKISTANI BALLS DOWN TOO)

A leading sports manufacturer from Sialkot, asking not to be identified, told ET over the phone that Adidas picked Pakistan over China for FIFA 2018 to manufacture the match balls. Adidas has supplied the official match ball for all FIFA World Cup matches since 1970.

However, the Sialkot manufacturer added that orders received by Pakistan this time have gone down. The reason: growing reliance on machine-stitched footballs as opposed to hand-stitched balls. This is where China has outdone India and to a large extent, Pakistan as well, he said.

“China has a huge market, which offers the capacity and latest technology to supply machine-stitched balls,” said the Sialkot manufacturer.

Vietnam has emerged as a new player in the manufacturing league this World Cup.The Southeast Asian nation is said to have received a significant ordes. (ET)

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