Person of the Week: The Wannabe Indian Football Fan


Person of the Week: The Wannabe Indian Football Fan

Illustration: Akshita Monga

In case you’ve been living under a rock, or don’t have an internet connection (practically the same thing), you may not know that the FIFA World Cup has kicked-off in Russia. After four years wandering in a metaphorical desert of cricket and the IPL, Indian football fans can finally come out of exile. What do you know, there’s even a Moses playing the World Cup to lead them back to the Promised Land! For switching their loyalties from cricket to football faster than Ronaldo can fake a dive, cheering for a country they can’t point on the world map, and pretending to understand the offside rule, the Indian football fan is our Person of the Week.   

All year round, these Indian fans falsely identify with some European team, proudly declaring “we won!” when Real Madrid or Manchester United lifts a trophy. The World Cup is an opportunity to stake a claim to not just a foreign city, but a whole country, your “doosri country”, as the FIFA ad suggests. So expect your friend from Borivali to cheer for Brazil louder than he cheered for Chhetri because that’s just how an Indian football fan rolls. It doesn’t matter if the only interactions they’ve had with their chosen team are through a PlayStation controller, they still consider themselves more important to “their side” than Neymar and Thiago Silva.

As the tournament progresses, the Indian football fans will be organising into militias to uphold the reputation of their new-found heroes. Nowhere is safe, from the office lunch table to the college canteen, as debates will spring up over who is the ultimate footballer. Of course, the debate will be about Ronaldo and Messi, with someone doing a Kajol and saying, “Ronaldo is a cheater… cheater… cheater.”

Not having an opinion on the topic will lead to the football fans ostracising you for the duration of the World Cup. So lace up your boots and prepare for some two-footed tackles, because at this party, you may get a red card for mixing up David Silva with David de Gea.

The football fans’ time in the sun is brief, so naturally they will be attempting to make the most of it. In a country like India, where football is neglected as much as Haryana neglects the girl child, they aren’t just followers of the sport, but also its evangelists. Every exciting match in the World Cup will be held up as an example of why football is more thrilling than cricket. Every boring match will be defended by saying at least it look less time than a T20 game.

Not having an opinion on the topic will lead to the football fans ostracising you for the duration of the World Cup.

Now there are two types of football fans who will be coming out of hibernation for the World Cup: the casuals and the hardcores. With such a niche interest, you’d think the two would get along, but that would be a bigger mistake than when Roy Hodgson was made Liverpool coach. The hardcores (you can count them on your fingers) hate the casuals the way defenders hate strikers, and at any World Cup screening you will find an exasperated hardcore explaining what a set piece is to a confused but enthusiastic casual for the fifth time. The key bone of contention between the two groups is that the hardcores hate the casuals for hopping onto the bandwagon only once every four years with their fake jerseys and face paint, while they lose hours of sleep annually trying to stay awake and watch the UEFA matches.

The casuals outnumber the hardcores, of course. At the end of the day though, it doesn’t matter. Because all this enthuthiasm will last only until the India vs Ireland T20 games begin.