Adapting to Changing Face of Soccer in India

休闲足球 Pastime Football, Banting

Pastime Football, Banting (Photo credit: Tianyake)

By Partha Pratim Chandra

Kolkata, March 19, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) Remember that old Doordarshan tune? Long before today’s LCD, Plasma, or 3D TVs? The nail biting – adrenalin rushing – black and white East Bengal-Mohan Bagan matches, the eternal ‘Ghati’ and ‘Bangal’ debate over football. And at midnight it was time for European Club football matches. In fact we, Bengalis started to like the Club Football more than World Cup matches. The Clubs had the clusters of stars at that time; the ground was their own, so it had a huge fan following, the atmosphere became electrifying at those times, at times the news papers had headlines like the match of the century is today.

Days passed, now people had colour television and cable line, the door to world football opened before Bengalis. It was not only Club football; it was a unique chance to watch the galaxy of stars together, an intoxicating advantage for a football crazed race.

Ronaldo, Zidane,Raul, Gabriel Batistuta, Alan Shearer became like our boys next door. The more they come closer to our heart, Chima, Bhaichung or Alok Das drifted away. It was inevitable, of course you won’t like mushroom once you got the taste of meat.

A few more years passed. Pele’s visit to Kolkata in ’77 now is a history, not much remembered, more so, because Football got his new crown prince, Diego Maradona. Diego will come to India, Diego May come to India, for many years the news paper speculated and rumored this headline. It was hard to believe for us, but we loved to believe that, we loved the waiting.

Then came the night of 5th December, 2008, at midnight, Netaji Subhas International Airport actually became a Football-port. Some will relate the crowd with Asian; I was present at both of the occasion, Maradona pulled far more followers than him. When he was in VIP Road, the fans were running behind his bus, he was smiling, definitely he knew this was going to happen. Three years have passed; the night of 5th December has not faded at all.

We already have seen Pele, Maradona also paid a visit, Roger Milla, Fransis Kole even Oliver Kann played the last match of his career in Yubabharati, against Mohun Bagan. Byrne Munich, Guard Muller or Luther Mathews is visiting. Even our own Bhaichung played in Allianz Arena along with Seadorf or Pirlo. Chrstiano Ronaldo stopped over to kiss Bipasa Basu. And we Indian are going toward 200 in FIFA ranking. While the quality of the game was going down, we started to realize the globalization of Football. Mr. Joseph Blatter planted a tree in Mohun Bagan Camp.

In the Meantime, Messi came to Kolakta, not only Messi; Higuiano, Dimaria, Aguerra, Romero, Gutirez, in short the whole Argentina Team, that also to play a FIFA match, against Venezuela. Champions League was going on at that time; it was just like a boon for a Benagli.

Like the Civilization, The quest for ultimate football pleasure always goes on. So, Premier League Soccer was introduced to Bengalis. An IPL of Football. Some will say it’s only the leftovers who plays here, so what? Canavaro, Harnan Crespo, African footballer J Jewacocha, Sorin or Pires will play, John Barnes will be there as a coach, and there will be bidding of players for the first time in the history of football. That too in our very own Kolkata! Can you believe it?

I was curious, so visited the bidding table. But the business magnets present there was not of that status I was expecting. Of course they had some money. But it is Crespo I’m talking about, one of the highest paid footballer in the world, and to take him in their team, a housewife of Saltlake voted in! I felt like sitting at school and selecting the captain of a preschool team.

The stars of their status will play at Barasat Stadium! or Kanchenjunga Stadium of Siliguri!! Yubabharati or Mohun Bagan field!!! I felt like I’m dreaming. Confused. Will they really play in Kolkata? Bidding has been done, though the future of PLS is uncertain.

When I started this article, two things haunted me most, one, how foreign players started to get involved in Bengali Football, two, how Globalization affected it. Many foreign players will come and go; changing of the teams will also go on, but the face of the Kolkata Football has changed. Still a big match sees around eighty thousand spectators, still Maidan goes erupted with debates at times, but the globalization has changed our view towards the game.


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