For a country that is obsessed with cricket, the Hero Indian Super League is dispelling every myth about India and it’s liking for the “gentleman’s game”. With crowds averaging twenty thousand plus in all the games played so far, the verdict so far is that the Indian football fans are lapping it up. For me it is a supremely fascinating opportunity to put Bill Shankly’s (Probably Liverpool FC’s greatest ever manager) words into perspective. He had once famously quoted, “People sometimes think that football is a matter of life and death. I assure you that it is much more serious than that.” I tend to agree with Bill. You live and die a thousand times when your team is playing out there on the pitch and on behalf of every football fan, I think I can take the liberty of saying that life and all its essentials can be cast aside during a derby.
The opportunity to be associated with the Hero Indian Super League has been a fantastic one. It has been a mind-boggling journey so far. From being a Football vlogger to being a Senior Content Associate for the Hero Indian Super League has had its moments…several of them. There have been times when I have marvelled at Robert Pires’s captivating French accent while asking him about his stint in India…smiled at Alessandro Del Piero’s admission that he still hates losing…laughed at Freddie Ljungberg statement : “Not everyone can be perfect”, when I told him that I am a Manchester United fan…marvelled at Ian Rush’s analysis… grinned at Peter Reid’s jokes…chilled out with the effervescent Syed Rahim Nabi…asked Ranbir Kapoor about his aspirations…teased John Abraham about his footballing skills…and absorbed in wonderment, the passion that the Hero Indian Super League invokes.
I have been amazed at the sort of near madness that the ISL brings out in Guwahati and some of my best anecdotes originate from the capital city of Assam. My cab driver, Roki Boro, who was driving me from my hotel to the stadium on the eve of NorthEast United’s game against Atlético de Kolkata, is a prime example of how the people are tuned in to the Hero Indian Super League (ISL). “I was not happy with the way NorthEast United hung on for the win. They should have pushed on and scored more goals,” he quipped, while providing his analysis of the club’s first game. Roki revealed that he had sponsored tickets for 25 members of his village so that they could come and watch the home side play, “People here are not that much into cricket, they are football fanatics. I hope that the ISL brings out the best in Indian football. I do not mind sponsoring more tickets if the games and the atmosphere are this good.”
Another wonderful experience that befell me was my journey back to my hotel from the stadium in a police convoy. As our jeep whizzed through the deserted streets, the policemen relaxed and discussed the game animatedly. “Durga Boro deserved a goal,” remarked one, “what a right foot the boy has!” “Boithang runs like a deer!” chimed his colleague, “they should have started with him. He could have scored some goals!” When I asked them if they followed football regularly, all of them replied in unison, “Of course! All of us went to watch the national championship that was won by Mizoram last year. We watch football whenever we can.”
To cap it all, I was mistaken for a NorthEast United player by my house-keeping maid. “Do you play for John Abraham’s team, sir?” she asked. How I wish I could have said yes! But sadly, I had to dispel her notions and explain what I actually do to her. My sadness was blown away by NEUFC goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas who ran into me at the team hotel. “You should come for all of our games. Maybe, you are our lucky charm,” he joked. Not me, I thought to myself, more likely the thousands of passionate fans who turn up to watch their beloved team play.
Till I get the time to summon up some extra buzz via my words, I would like the readers to tune in to the Hero Indian Super League, for after all, it is being touted as the “Birth of a Footballing Nation”. Till then…#ComeOnIndia …#LetsFootball
Abhik Chatterjee, the author is a Senior Digital Content Associate for the Hero Indian Super League and the Founder-Director of Footers, who left a career in Engineering to pursue his Football media dreams. A Youth Parliament (2013) inductee for TIMES NOW and The Times of India, a Top 5 contestant on the Clinic All Clear Dream Job for ESPN-STAR (2007) and an avid speaker, football is the only thing that keeps him happy even when he is dying of hunger. [Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-1kPjLfFZYBoW5Ef8ptfkg Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/footers.deed Twitter: abhik_chatters]
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