By James Passey
Having recently returned from an interesting trip to India to watch the cricket, many things overwhelmed me. The way other people live, the poverty, the carnival-like atmosphere for the sport, but being a football mad fan, issues with the beautiful game also grabbed my attention.
First of all there seems a distinct lack of interest in football. When I’ve visited countries like Thailand and Vietnam you’ll have a very good chance of finding a live Premier League game on in a bar and the locals will be more than aware of the big teams. In India it was quite the opposite.
We struggled to find any live matches being shown and the local people didn’t seem too bothered about it, this shocked me. They love their cricket with a passion; matchdays during the T20 series was absolute bedlam.
People walking down the streets in their droves, chanting and making as much noise as possible, but mention Manchester United to them and there’s a strong chance they wouldn’t know who they were.
This made me think about FIFA’s initiative to spread and develop the game around the world, surely with a population of nearly 1.3 billion, India is the perfect country to host a World Cup in.
But I suppose they don’t have the money at their disposal like Qatar or China, which brings their morals and ethics into question even more.
Bringing such a massive sport to the poor children of this wonderful country is surely the kind of thing we need to see? The lack of this only further dents the image of the game’s world governing body.
The other thing I noticed is the amount of football fans seemingly giving up on their club and deciding to follow the cricket. There was a small following for the shorter form of the game in India; many members of the Barmy Army are still cricket purists and travel to watch the test format.
But those who I did meet were evidently fed up with the modern game. There were Tottenham, Liverpool, Wolves and Walsall fans in attendance, to name a few, probably more in Kanpur at the time than their respective cities or towns! But during various conversations with them they all had similar opinions.
They follow the cricket because it’s still an adventure; the corporate conglomerates haven’t got their claws into the sport as much as football yet. You can still eat and stay in the same hotel as the players; they aren’t treated like the superstars of the Premier League.
This coincides with a recent video that went viral, concerning a Liverpool fan who expresses his concerns about his beloved team becoming a ‘tourist’ club. He described the current top six as tourist clubs and he’s not wrong. Too many hospitality areas, people turning up with selfie sticks, it’s killing the atmosphere and it’s killing the game.
When it comes to the revenue of a club there has to be a fine balance between making money and not losing the hardcore fan base. This seems to be happening too much in this era and it’s taking the soul out of clubs.
Many people I know now choose to watch grass roots football because of these very reasons; they are fed up with the bland corporate experience not being treated correctly. While this is good for local football it could prove damaging for the big boys in years to come.
Some of these thoughts may have drifted through my mind while England were getting smashed for fours and sixes, but at least the Indian fans went crazy and still have a raw passion that many football fans have lost.