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Shifting the goalpost
members of Youth Football Club, Rurka Kalan, Punjab, at a practice session. Photo: Malkiat Singh

Shifting the goalpost

FIFA 2018 is the trigger point for football clubs in and around Chandigarh to get into some serious discussions about the future of the game in our country20 Jun 2018 | 12:44 AM

The most sparsely populated country of Europe, Iceland, makes it to FIFA 2018, Lionel Messi misses a penalty, team players are facing a hard time keeping nerves in check, algorithms and cats predicting winners of the football World Cup 2018, the game explains the real meaning of tenterhooks.

[ + read story ]

Jasmine Singh

The most sparsely populated country of Europe, Iceland, makes it to FIFA 2018, Lionel Messi misses a penalty, team players are facing a hard time keeping nerves in check, algorithms and cats predicting winners of the football World Cup 2018, the game explains the real meaning of tenterhooks. 

While beers and pubs whip up new dishes, and are winning brew-loving beer hearts, the football clubs in tricity huddle together for some serious discussions. 

Ranjit Bajaj, owner of Minerva Punjab FC, has made FIFA a technical learning ground for his players, apart from, of course, his young players enjoying the game. “In the evening, my boys sit together to watch the game on the big screen that we’ve put up in the academy. They sit in groups of two and you’ve to see what fun they have.”

Minerva Punjab Football Club, also known as Minerva Academy, is an Indian professional football club that competes as a member of the I League, the top-tier league for Indian football. The ongoing FIFA’s enthusiasm is evident among the members and Ranjit too.

You cannot return without asking a sportsman about the predictions for the cup. “I have been shouting from the rooftop that Iceland is a great team, and I have also been saying that if a country with 3 lakh population approximately can do this, why can’t a country like India?”

While bars and clubs cash on the adrenaline that the game oozes, the football clubs in the city discuss the technicalities and how and where the game is proceeding. 

Sahil Mahajan and Gunjeet Sodhi, the men behind the Kickstart Football Academy in Sector-44 do not have to tell the 40-50 kids in the academy to follow the matches. “In fact, they come up with all kinds of observations, updates and predictions,” shares Sahil, a die-hard loyalist of Team England. And he has been supporting the team for 16 years now. “Back in the academy, kids under 13 are trained by the Italian coaches,” shares Sahil, who sees the game gaining ground in times to come.

Even an advanced Google search shows only a countable number of football clubs in and around tricity. Though Harmanjot Singh Gosal, president Indus Valley Football Club, Dera Bassi, too sees football getting, if not equal share, then at least 50 per cent of the popularity that cricket enjoys. 

At his academy kids in the age group of 5-20 train in the football. After they are trained to be fit, the kids play matches, getting a real feel of what it is to play against an opponent. Harmanjot personally likes the South American style of football and plans to put up a big screen on the final day of FIFA.  

Kids here train from 4 in the evening till 8, and winter floodlights make visibility a lot easier. But Harmanjot still wonders why a country that won the Asian Cup in 1954 didn’t do much to popularise the sport. 

With Indian football leagues and television popularising the game, the issue of popularity might be sorted in the due course of time. 

Gurmangal Dass, president of the Youth Football Club, Rurka Kalan, Punjab however, took the onus on himself to popularise the game. The club founded in 2001 has now progressed to being an integrated community-based grassroots organisation. The academy is managed by NRIs and foreign funds. 

jasmine@tribunemail.com

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