Ranjona Banerji: India’s great football triumph = Viva Espana!

02 Jul,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji


So who was bigger this week? European football or the prime minister as the finance minister? In spite of how much we love the Indian economy and can now all speak knowingly about repo rates and supply side economics, actually it is the question of whether Spain is really the greatest sporting nation in the world or not that concerns us.


Since everyone stayed up all night on Sunday to find out – all the newspapers that is, not me – we can now safely say that football is the second biggest sport in India, after cricket. In fact, sometimes newspapers do not stay up all night to bring us the results of late night cricket matches, especially where India is not playing, so…


I point this out because the chances of India playing at the Euro Cup are, of course, zero but the chances of India playing football at the international level are also, er, zero.


No one, however, cares. Although we are often accused of being jingoistic (by me), when it comes to football, it is the beauty of the game which gets us. All these European countries fighting each other as they chase a ball around a field affects us deeply. We take on loyalties that are deep and meaningful, we become close to all the players and we have no compunctions about fighting with our friends who support the wrong team. I see “we” in a generous sense that has nothing to do with me, since I don’t understand any of this.


Funnily enough, we don’t even care that we can’t even make tenuous Indian connections which make us so happy at other times – the white mayor of Pigsknuckle, Arkansas once ate an Indian meal made by second-generation Indian immigrant Lucky Kohli, thus proving how great India is.


Spain is now top country for India (I make this arbitrary judgment based on Twitter), even though I don’t think that Spain has many of the celebrity footballers who make the news the rest of the time when they play for clubs (Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney are the ones who pop up all the time for philistines like me). Also, once the World Cup arrives and the South American teams take part, all these loyalties will shift again.


Indian TV news does devote some time to football but not as much as Indian newspapers which even sent correspondents to Poland and Ukraine. That is why newspapers are at the vanguard of identifying the sports which fascinate the new India.


TV news is involved in saving India night after night so sport, unless it involves scandal, is not really that newsworthy. No?


PS: The prime minister as finance minister? Boring!


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