Indian footballing legend Bhaichung Bhutia alongside Bollywood's John Abraham

Indian footballing legend Bhaichung Bhutia alongside Bollywood’s John Abraham

 

Ai??Jeetna bhi ek aadat hoti hai … joh dheere dheere aati hai -Ai??Dhan Dhana Dan Goal

Winning is also a habit … that comes slowly

The land of Bollywood and cricket, the land of Shahrukh Khans, Salman Khans, Sourav Gangulys and Mahendra Singh Dhonis, India, was never known as a footballing nation. The footwork of Rahul Dravid and the ‘latkajhatkas’ of Madhuri Dixit had captivated our nation, way before than current Indian Captain Sunil Chhetri, even started for India.

India has always been a country where glamour, razzmatazz, paparazzi and show-off is considered a major protagonist in instigating or perhaps infusing something new and alien. Parallely India is also a cricket dominated nation where, if a certain Maria Sharapova fails to recognize Sachin Tendulkar – she is headhunted, while gossips ranging from Shahrukh Salman to Priyanka Anushka are talks of great philosophy and their every next move is speculated and focused upon.

Among all this ‘shorsharaba’, charisma and charm of Indian winning the World Cup and Salman Khan setting a benchmark in Bollywood, ‘the beautiful game’ was ignored and shunned to the gallows.

Although Indian boasted a rich cultural footballing history in the times of Rahim Saab and the glorious Mohun Bagan’s team of 1911, football was never considered a prime sport. After winning the Cricket World Cup in 1983, cricket erupted and it’s pedigree alongwith regional domain, completely shadowed football. Meanwhile, 1980s was the golden period of Bollywood, in terms of the great Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Hema Malini and co., people somehow seemed attracted with ‘all that is good’ in the film industry.

Since then cricket and Bollywood have been two of the major driving forces in a country which is often enamored by the ‘glitters in gold’.

Meanwhile, Football was slowly and gradually making it’s mark on masses, whilst being highly polarized in the Northeastern states, West Bengal and Goa. Rome wasnt built in a day and football gradually became a budding sport among youth. Although still the ‘bat ball’ population hugely outnumbered the ‘ball’ population, it would be injustice and perhaps a personal crime, if the first wave of footballing fans are not remembered.

Soon, Bhaichung Bhutia – India’s most recognized face related to football, became a household name in parts not alienated to football. Bhutia and football went along simmilarly like Shahrukh Khan and Bollywood and like Kapil Dev and Cricket.

Ai??The first generation fans and supporters took note of the growing football presence inside the country and started following traditional clubs – Mohun Bagans, East Bengals, Sportings, or Dempos. Although still major part of football supporters present inside the country were following foreign leagues, which were undoubtedly better in quality. ( The point does not focus on quality of the Indian game, but enables the reader to understand the budding love for football)

In 2001, cricket had its first and most famous encounters with football, as Rahul Dravid went to congratulate the Indian National Football Team, who had just beaten 55th ranked United Arab Emirates in World Cup qualifiers, courtesy of a Jules Alberto goal which proved to be the ultimate deficit.

Football was slowly growing, balls were being kicked, cleats were being brought, academies were being built and the country started its first major organised league in 2007, named the Indian League ( I-League), after two failed attempts to bring football onto the national stage.

The 2007 movie Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal

The 2007 movie Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal

2007 was perhaps the pivotal point which further influenced and instigated the charm to follow and watch football.With India out of the Cricket World Cup – suffering a fate only reserved for minnows, being knocked out even before the super eights, and ‘Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal’ coming out as the first full feature movie solely dedicated on football, from Bollywood, Football became the new ‘cool’. But still, Cricket outnumbered football and so did Bollywood fans. Though a tempting and naive conclusion to draw whilst being highly inaccurate, these two events might have paved ways for a larger audience to take up football as the new trendsetter. Nonetheless, football was a rising trend and Salman Khan – arguably nation’s heartthrob, made a guest appearance in Nehru Cup Finals of 2009.

2011, Reality check – India wins the Cricket World Cup, the whole nation rejoices in celebration and festivities, Bollywood’s presence at D.Y Patil Stadium is highlighted and football has once again succumbed to the shadows.

Bollywood and cricket goes way back to Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi ( a cricketer ) and Saif Ali Khan ( an actor ). Both are well known figures in their respective domains and both have an ever lasting impression on their audience. Cricket as it stands joined hands with Bollywood, or vice versa – its origins unknown, but the core remains that two driving forces of the country joined hands, eons ago.

The third tier or as it stands the oppressed tire -football, reeled against the backdrop of cricket and Bollywood. But, some new faces, both in the cricketing and footballing field, suddenly expressed love for a game alien to bask in attention of the Indian masses.

Indian Cricket skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni expressed his love for Manchester United, John Abraham expressed his love for the beautiful game, Ranbir Kapoor expressed his love for Barcelona and Junior Bachchan expressed his love for Chelsea.

Although their origins – as in when they stated to follow the game remain in doubt, the new crop was certainly was setting a trend which was influencing a wider audience.

Football was on the rise. Fans flocked to support European giants such as Manchester United and Real Madrid, while thousands went with the flow and initiated their first experiences with the beautiful game.

*****

The following article has been constructed to frame the timeline, which involves the merging together of Bollywood, Cricket and Football. A trend which is easily seen now a days in the Indian Super League.Ai??

Click Here To Read Part 2Ai??

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