Friday, Jan 19, 2018 | Last Update : 06:50 PM IST
The reason for the lack of buzz is because of a lack of funds, says Gopal M.S., creative director, at Tailor India.
Despite the lack of buzz around the Under-17 FIFA World Cup, ardent football fans in the city are determined that the games won’t be played to an empty stadium.
If one were to walk down the streets of Navi Mumbai, one would find them spotless, festooned with football posters and the talk of the town is the FIFA Under 17 Football World Cup, which is about to start on October 6. However, aside from Navi Mumbai, most Mumbaikars remain unaffected by the buzz. There are no hoardings along the roads, and only a few advertisements on TV and over the FM waves are focusing on what could possibly be one of the biggest football events held in India.
A source in the official FIFA team said, “For the first game, which is between New Zealand and Turkey, there has been a sale of 22,000 tickets with only one phase of passes yet to be sold out. There has been a similar response for the other games.”
D.Y. Patil stadium, where the games are being held, though, has a capacity for 48,000 people, which means that not even half of the seats have been occupied for the games.
The reason for the lack of buzz is because of a lack of funds, says Gopal M.S., creative director, at Tailor India. He explains, “Sports in India is only seen as a form of entertainment. The sports channels cater to a certain section of the audience, in the same way as other channels create saas-bahu serials for other sections.” There are certain sports conglomerates that take over the screening and advertising and those channels are completely focussed on cricket. “So, when you don’t have these games airing on the major sports channels, you automatically lose out on a lot of the publicity. The other means of publicity is the social media and here, the organisers have failed to have a concentrated campaign, which could go viral. The only ad I saw wasn’t all that great,” he says.
The fault also lies with the government itself, since it has not given the games the kind of boost it would give for the Asian Games or Commonwealth Games, adds Gopal. “The only governing body that has tried to create a buzz around the games is the local municipal government at Navi Mumbai. They’ve got school kids involved in several activities and have done what they could do to make the area look like it’s anticipating a big event. The government could have extended some more help in terms of funds, like they did with the Commonwealth Games or the Asian Games, which were advertised as a tourist attraction. But then, I suppose, football hasn’t become enough of a mass sport for them to do so,” he laments.
Despite the lack of buzz, however, football fanatics in the city are all revved up to go and watch some quality matches. Freelance sports writer Manoj Narayan, who usually covers cricket, wants to go and watch a few games as a fan this time. “Although Indian football has improved over the past few years, it’s still not at par with some of the better teams on an international level. So, this is a great opportunity to catch some high-quality football matches live. With teams like Brazil and Spain playing, I’m sure even an under-17 game will be a great watch, so I’m definitely going to go for a couple of matches,” he says, adding that though he hasn’t pinned down which matches he wants to go for, he will definitely make it to more than one.
Sahil Shah from the Manchester United Supporters Club Mumbai, on the other hand, has it all planned out. Since Angel Gomes, who happens to be a Manchester United player, is going to be playing for the English team, Sahil is even planning to fly down to Delhi to catch that match. “Around 20 to 25 of us are going to go for a couple of matches. We have planned to catch at least the round of 16 match on October 18, and the semi-finals on October 25. Apart from that a couple of my friends and I are thinking of going to Delhi to catch Angel in action. It may seem crazy, but it’s a bit like going for a concert to catch your favourite rock star,” he smiles.
—With inputs from Kabeer Khan