Thanks Sunil Chhetri, But Indian Football Fans Only Have Time for Manchester United

Satire

Thanks Sunil Chhetri, But Indian Football Fans Only Have Time for Manchester United

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

When I saw Sunil Chhetri, the Indian football captain, post a video on Twitter, urging fans to come to the stadium to watch the national team in action, it broke my heart. I’m a football fan and I obviously want India’s national team and local clubs to do well. And as a fan, I showed my full commitment to the cause. I retweeted him.

You see, I’m a football fan from India. I’m not a fan of Indian football. The teams I support and shed tears for, are Manchester United and Spain.

When I say “we” hope to win titles this year, I’m not talking about my local club team Mumbai FC or the Indian national team, I’m obviously referring to Manchester United, located only 7,000 kilometres away. I might never have visited Manchester, but when football became fashion and I Googled “popular football teams” that was the first name that popped up. Also for long, David Beckham was the only footballer I knew. Since then, I have been a hardcore United fan. I cried when Sir Alex retired and have celebrated each time the Reds have won the Premiership title. I know all about the club’s history, but I somehow I struggle to remember names of Indian football clubs, let alone the players.

When it comes to national teams, I support Spain. Now with the World Cup around the corner, I am all set to to blindly donate my kidney to the nearby Adidas store for a Spain jersey. I thought I’d buy the Sunil Chhetri India jersey, but didn’t want to shell out so much money to be the odd one out. I should also save for the cricket World Cup next year, and last I heard the jersey wasn’t even available in stores. This was last year and I haven’t bothered since.

I spend hours every day on WhatsApp groups and internet forums discussing transfer rumours, statistics, and tactics concerning the top tier of European football, but what do I discuss about Indian clubs?

And Chhetri, what has he achieved? Yes, he is the only Indian player we know of after Bhaichung Bhutia. But that’s it. And he’s just the third highest active international goal-scorer in the world. Only behind Ronaldo and Messi. Never mind.

I’d rather rock the latest scarfs, key chains, bags, posters and other United and Spain merchandise that reflect my obsessive fandom. But only old Goan uncles have time for Indian football. I know exactly how many saves David De Gea made with his left toe in the 2015-16 season, but please don’t ask me who the Indian football coach is.

When it comes to club football, the I-League is drab, the ISL too glitzy. Shah Rukh Khan dancing at the ISL opening ceremony is cringeworthy – real passion is evoked only when Dua Lipa performs at the Champions League final or Shakira stars in the official World Cup song.

I spend hours every day on WhatsApp groups and internet forums discussing transfer rumours, statistics, and tactics concerning the top tier of European football, but what do I discuss about Indian clubs? That Pune FC and Bharat FC had to disband because no one went to the games and they ran out of money? Who has the patience to support small clubs in our neighbourhood? That involves watching them fail a lot. Nobody likes failure. Ask the Arsenal fan.

This June, when the real action starts, I will stay up post midnight on a school night to watch the games and will be shelling out thousands of bucks at a sports bar to cheer for Spain. But 250 bucks is a bit much to watch the India vs Kenya game in Andheri, and also it’s a weekday ya!

Yet, I dream of seeing India at the Football World Cup some day though I did not find time to follow the U-17 team. Like most things in India, I want the situation to change, but it’s not like me watching the game is going to help.

But the good news is I may just cheer for the Blue Tigers today. Not because I am moved by Chhetri’s plea. But because everyone’s talking about it since the video. What else will I tweet about otherwise?

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