India’s love affair with Football

Relationships are hard to maintain. They always need constant attention and extra effort. Long distance relationship is much harder. It probably never works. India’s love affair with a popular sport Soccer is long distance and has worked so well over the last 2 decades or so. For a country that is ranked ¬†close to 150 on the FIFA tables, ain’t the soccer love too much? Well, I am Indian and I love watching the sport. My favorite team in the EPL is Chelsea and my bet was on Germany to win FIFA 2010.
India’s association with soccer only proves that “Love is blind!”. The best soccer player from India was/is Baichang Bhutia. I did not start following soccer until the cable TV boom in India. My dad tells me how he learnt of soccer news in the 80’s. I believe, newspapers in the 80’s published this teeny-tiny news article in the last page of Sports Illustrated that spoke about football. But, today, thanks to super technology and cable tv we are able to watch 9 months of LIVE soccer! Indians follow EPL with sincerity. And for the record – India had one of the highest viewership numbers of FIFA 2010. Imagine, in the future when India actually plays in a FIFA world cup!! – Well, that’s not even a distant dream given the plight of soccer as a sport in India!
I have only watched Maradona score two goals against England – with the infamous Hand of God goal and a few minutes later, with an absolute master piece when he beat all the Englishmen just by himself – on highlights. But, today most Indian kids talk like they had seen these scenes live! That’s how much Indian kids know and have learnt about football.
There is no logic behind the popularity of world football in India. In spite of the popularity of the sport and the huge fan base, India is yet to come up with a good national football team. One of my friend’s elder brother told us about how he made his wife wait for him on his honeymoon since he was glued to a 2006 world cup soccer final between Italy and France. He remained dejected through his honeymoon since France lost and Zidane retired! Well, that’s the kind of love affair Indians have for soccer. The affair will surely continue uninterrupted!
Prasanna Rengarajan