November 18, 2016 12:04 pm JST

Figo eyes Asian talent with soccer video platform

"No talent shall be left behind," according to the founders of Dream Football Luis Figo, right, and Joao Guerra.

LISBON -- Former Portuguese soccer star Luis Figo has launched a video-sharing service titled "Dream Football," aimed at providing exposure for young talent hoping to be scouted by top clubs.

Videos of young players can be posted on the service via a smartphone app. With the purpose of creating "a new platform for scouting potential players," the service aims to have 100 million members within a year of its launch.

The app lets users record, edit, upload and share videos of youngsters showing off their skills. Membership is free, and it also features a "game" element where kids can enjoy watching their friends play.

Under the slogan, "no talent shall be left behind," the service offers professional scouts a digital platform to discover new talent that eliminates the cost and burden of conventional scouting expeditions.

The athlete-turned-entrepreneur recently sat down with the Nikkei Asian Review to talk about the project's strategy.

Q: You called your project 'Dream Football,' but what is your dream?

A: There are a lot of kids who love football all over the world. We want to create value in this area and create an economy of opportunities for all the kids who want to follow their dreams of turning professional one day.

Q: What is so exciting about this business?

A: We are in the digital era, when something that was impossible in the past can be done. We can help with the kids. When they achieve some important dreams, the project will be a success.

Q: What do you always keep in mind as an entrepreneur? What are the biggest challenges?

A: The challenge is to always be curious to do it well and to have smart friends. All good things come from friends and they have helped me. Life is a lesson. If you can improve every day, things go well.

Q: If you compare being a footballer with being entrepreneur, which do you prefer? Which is more exciting?

A: They're different. As a footballer you produce your skills. As an entrepreneur you produce your ideas, and drafts to succeed with your business. Both have some risks. But, in the end, I think business has more risks than playing football -- where you are in your comfort zone.

Q: Is there a manager or coach in your new career?

A: Not for now. But I have business partners.

Q: You have set a target 100 million users in one year, and half of them are expected to come from Asia. Could you explain your business plan for the Asian market?

A: We are looking for a global sponsor. The business plan now is more to grow in terms of uploaders and viewers. After that, we will think about a main sponsor and advertising. We focus on this first, then probably go for a round of investment in the future.

Q: Have you already contacted potential sponsors?

A: Not yet, because we just launched.

Q: Recently Chinese investors have acquired many football clubs in Europe, including one of your old clubs Inter. How do you feel about the current situation?

A: I think this is globalization, the power of companies in Asia and the love of football makes them buy clubs, and other companies.

Q: Would you also consider sponsorship from China?

A: We are open, but we are not looking for money right now.

Q: You ran for the FIFA presidency last year but eventually withdrew. What will be your role in football from now on?

A: Right now in football I am not working with any club, I have a futsal project in India, an academy in China, and I'm now starting a visibility football program in Florida too.

Q: Do you intent to take another shot at the FIFA presidency? Or will you remain focused on business for a while?

A: You never know what will happen in the future. We've just had elections recently, so we have to give the president time to work.

Luis Figo, the former Portuguese football hero, goes into business.

Figo unveiled the outlines of the Dream Football initiative at the Web Summit, one of the largest internet business events in Europe, held Nov.7-10 in Lisbon.

During the event, the former Portugal international said that he would use the experience of his playing career to do "whatever it takes" and "work with utmost effort toward the goal" of making the initiative a success.

Cheers erupted from the audience when the 2000 Ballon d'Or winner announced the principles behind the initiative were "effort, dedication, devotion, and glory" -- also the motto of Sporting, Figo's first club.

At present, the app is only available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese and not in any Asian languages. This is partly because the company expects users with potential careers in Europe in mind to have mastered the basics of a European language.

Co-founder Joao Guerra believes that kids in Asia who can handle it in English will use the app.

Whether Dream Football can harness the power of technology and bridge the gap between young talent and Europe's elite clubs remains to be seen. What is clearly not in doubt is the passion and dedication of its founder.

Interviewed by Nikkei staff writer Takayuki Kato

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