What is the current Indian national game

Soccer in India: where old stars entertain 1.3 billion unsuspecting people

Every step he takes sounds like he's about to wade through the swamp. The training is less than 20 minutes old when Manuel Friedrich's socks start to make strange noises. Puddles have formed in his football boots. It is the time of the summer monsoon in India, but there is no rainwater that stands in the shoes and makes the jersey stick to the body. The first beads of sweat came out of Friedrich's pores when he left the hotel.

The 35-year-old German has been living in Mumbai, the 20 million-inhabitant metropolis on the west coast of the subcontinent, for four weeks. The thermometer shows 37 degrees Celsius, it's humid and loud. The city, in which more than twice as many people live in a small space as in Austria, looks restless like an anthill.

More than half of the inhabitants have - in view of the heavy rainfalls downright tragic - no water connection and therefore no sewage system. Unfamiliar smells, strange faces, strange language, strange food. "Even if I haven't heard much from the country and its people, everything is different here - completely," says Friedrich, who has toured large parts of Asia in recent years.

India - he emphasizes this several times - is "yet another completely different number". At the end of his career, the German professional was looking for - and found - an adventure. In October, the former defender from Mainz, Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund will be there when the Indian Super League starts, the most recent and so far most costly attempt to teach football culture to 1.3 billion Indians.

"An incomparable, unique championship," promised the marketer IMG-Reliance in his brochure: "It will promote local talent and be home to international stars. With the aim of making football a flagship for the sport in this country."