Reading through a report on IBNLive.com I could not help wondering that to what extent the IPL has damaged the concept of sports in the Indian psyche. It was amusing in part to listen to the ‘wonderful’ plans of Mr. Utsav Parekh regarding ISL and at the same time it was dreadful.
It appears that ISL organizers are planning a wholesome ‘entertainment package’ for the spectators where the circus would run for about ‘4 hours’ with dance and music and glitz and glamour and football will fit in a small corner of that whole package, acting as a filler.
The assumption behind this ‘packaging’ seems to be that the Indian mass is totally illiterate when it comes to football and they need Bollywood thumkas to make their arse stick around through the game. This assumption comes to me as an insult to the football fans across India, who have shown time and again that despite the lack of football culture in their country, their understanding of the game is at par with any European counterpart.
Mr. Parekh suggests that the half time ‘breaks would be a 30-minute affair’ in stead of 15 minutes as stipulated by the FIFA in the Rules of The Game. Apart from the fact that this longish break would completely ruin the intensity of the game, it remains to be seen how FIFA deals with the situation as being the governing body, it is their duty to uphold the true form of the game that has been standardized after decades of evolution.
The idea of the obscene subversion of the game, that is being planned by the organizers of Indian Super League, has its root in the model of Indian Premier League cricket tournament. An average Indian’s idea of a successful sport has mostly been constructed out of the success of the IPL cricket tournament. Bring in a celebrity owner to wave at the audience intermittently, import cheerleaders from the good old Amreeka, hire commentators and hosts who can dance and shout and you have a multi-billion dollar sports product right in front of you. Oh and you also have to throw in some Cricket; jeez I almost forgot!
The format of Cricket is such that it allows all the peripheral activities and integrates them seamlessly in its slow pace, but the same does not apply to football. Within the 90 minutes, a quality football match takes you through a thrilling journey of its own, where everything else seems secondary and unnecessary. This is the reason why MLS’s cheerleaders were never adopted in the successful or moderately successful football leagues across the world; barring some Arab commentators, shouting is not promoted as an integral part of commentary; the half-time show consists of in-depth analysis rather than item numbers.
SONY SIX drew severe flak when it tried to IPLise the FIFA World Cup 2014 by hiring the same old comedians from IPL to host game analysis show Cafe Rio and John Abraham, whose relation with football is only slightly more substantial than mine with Scarlett Johansson, as the football pundit. This should serve as a lesson for Star India and IMG-Reliance, that Indian football fans will take no bullcrap in the name of football.
The football purists on Indian Football Forum had long feared this outcome of such a league that was inevitably going to get IPLised. Since football is not amenable to massive On-TV advertising during the game, the ISL organizers, who are self-acclaimed harbingers of football in India, are quite predictably going to extend the lemon-break to fit in more time slots for advertisement. A worse scenario could be splitting the game into four quarters to include ‘strategic time-breaks’.
One feels sad for the Indian football followers who were given a hope of change in the domestic football scenario and who expected to enjoy world class football right in their backyard, something they could only watch sitting in front of the TV sets. In fact, reports suggest a large section of EPL and La Liga fans in India are going to form a sizable chunk of the stadium audience. But they may be in for a disappointment if the game of football is compromised and for better or for worse, they may never return to the stadium for ISL.
During the launch event of the ISL, one of the co-owners had remarked, either out of unfathomable gratitude or as a trait of sycophancy, that ‘Nita Ambani has given football to Kolkata’. Without going into the detail of how offensive that remark was to the history of Kolkata Football, I wonder whether what Mrs. Ambani is giving us is football or a rainbow circus where football is just another functional component.
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