Merch Merchants & the League of Extra Gentlemen: Meet the Humans of World Cup


Merch Merchants & the League of Extra Gentlemen: Meet the Humans of World Cup

Illustration: Arati Gujar

On a late Friday night inside a local watering hole, a deafening silence echoed through the room. All eyes were glued to the television, intensely watching one striker’s movements. Smoothly cutting through his opponents, the striker in question was scurrying toward the goal post with the ball… left… right… left… right. Any minute now, he would cross the last defender standing closest to the goalie and go for the kill.

Once the striker scores, it’s a given that whistles will be blown, the entire bar will raise their beer mugs, strangers will hug each other as if they’re long-lost friends, and a raucous celebration for the winning team will ensue. This is how every football screening unfolds in India.

But epic celebrations aside, the most interesting part about these screenings is the eclectic people that make up the crowd. Meet the humans of a FIFA World Cup screening. They’re here to show you what it means to be a real fanatic.

The Football Guru (FuGu)

Amid the cheering of fans and celebratory laughter during a thrilling match, will be that one person who silently enjoys the game from afar. Known as the Rain Man of football, this bro has memorised every team’s strategy, strength, weakness, and enough player history to predict which one will miss the next goal. Naturally, his unquestionable math skills and in-depth knowledge of the game make him the go-to guy for placing the right bets. That’s why the FuGu is the real MVP of every football screening.

Back in the day, when fellow Merchandise boiz and #TeamWannabe were still desperately switching channels for reruns of American Pie, FuGu was busy analysing his first live EPL match. Since the only language spoken at that time was cricket, no one ever gave a damn about FuGu’s knack for the game or his existence. But, today, he’s not just the sole handler of all bets, but also gets free entry at every pub.

Commonly overheard at his table: “Look, Argentina does not stand a chance this year. Bet on all the underdogs this time. Their rate of success seems to be increasing with their goals per game.” “I am the one who calculates!”

The League of Extra Gentlemen

The titleholders of always being too extra and seeking attention, this league includes dudes whose ultimate aim is to be the life of every football screening. Dressed in United or Chelsea FC jerseys, the League of Extra Gentlemen is here to cover the highlights of the match on their Instagram and rage-tweet about every own goal of the week. Always seen name-dropping popular footballers out of context and struggling to pronounce ESPN, the members of this club will go out of their way to overreact to basic fouls. Without the contributions of this significant team (which also include #FifaIsBae and #Portugal4Eva) Instagram traffic would plummet, people on Snapchat would be starved of match spoilers, and the names Messi and Ronaldo won’t be overused in every conversation possible.

Commonly overheard at this table: “Omg! That outside kick totally slayed! #teamkickass” “Shit! Why does my favourite player have to be the one to get the red card! Screw you yellow jersey!” “When he passed the ball so smoothly to Higuain, I was all like I can’t even!”

Confident Drunkcles

Conveniently seated next to the young people at the bar escaping the wrath of their whiny wives and tetchy children are the Confident Drunk Uncles. Unaware of the significance of the proceedings, these uncles happened to walk in during happy hour but decided to stay put when they realised that the pub was packed with hot women. Commonly found slobbering all over the table, these uncles enjoy doling out unwarranted football advice to young ’uns with great overconfidence. Their USP is to obliviously cheer for a team that’s not even playing. Truth be told, the last game these drunk uncles watched had Pele playing for the winning team. According to them, the ’80s were the golden period of the World Cup and every match after has either been fixed or a sham.

Commonly overheard at this table: “Beta have you ever seen Maradona play? He’ll kick your Ronaldo’s ass!” “Sab kuch fixed hai.”

Condescending Prick

Think of the condescending prick as that millennial who simply showed up to hate on the game. It’s that guy or girl who wakes up one day and decides to follow Salman Khan only because he’s “so done” with the SRK obsession. Commonly found with a smartphone glued to their face, the CP largely gives three reasons for hating football: 1) Polyester is a fashion disaster; 2) 11 men kicking a ball around sounds more like an orgy and less like a sport, and 3) I don’t like the game so, no one else is allowed to like it. Usually found loitering near the TV screen, the CP is often seen telling everyone enjoying the game how football is dumb and vaping is more thrilling than the game.

Commonly overheard at this table: “Who even watches TV anymore?! You guys are old.” “FIFA is a sux!”

The Merch Merchants

The living, breathing marketing wet dream or the Merch Merchants is the lot who firmly believe that they’re the only true fans of a football team. In their universe, being a football fanatic doesn’t comprise actually knowing the game. One might wonder how owning football merchandise has anything to do with being a loyalist but this vain group has keychains, wallets, lanyards, bracelets, socks, and even phone covers that shine brighter than the future of their team. Commonly found bragging about that expensive jersey they bought from Old Trafford, the merch club ostracises anyone whose jersey looks like cheap polyester.

Commonly overheard at this table: “Yuck! Is that Jersey from Borivali?” “I have a football signed by Messi himself! What do you have!”