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FIFA World Cup: Which country do Indian football fans support?

June 07, 2014 17:44 IST

FIFA World Cup: Which country do Indian football fans support?

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Desh Gaurav Chopra Sekhri

The World Cup for India has a special cultural significance, one which transcends the usual emotions that accompany sports, writes Desh Gaurav Chopra Sekhri

As Brazil gears up to host the FIFA World Cup 2014 starting on June 12, it is beyond doubt the world's biggest sports festival will rivet sports fans everywhere.

While the build-up to the World Cup has been less than optimal, with concerns about the infrastructure being completed in time for the tournament, nevertheless nothing that can curb the enthusiasm the world has for the beautiful game.

In India, the World Cup is one of the most popular sports events, and World Cup fever will likely cut across Indian demographics, as football takes over.

It won't be easy to stay glued to the action, because the time difference between Brazil and India means that most of the showcase matches will start either at 12:30 am or at 3:30 am IST -- but there will be enough and more Indian support regardless.

The World Cup for India has a special cultural significance, one which transcends the usual emotions that accompany sports.

Patriotism, pride, hope and projection are moot for Indians; because, for most of us, India has not and in all likelihood will not participate in the World Cup during our lifetimes, barring a miracle or the unlikely event that India hosts or co-hosts a FIFA World Cup in the next few decades.

Typically, this should translate into a form of indifference towards an event in a sport where Indians have mostly languished at the bottom. 

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Image: Chelsea fans from India during the match between Chelsea and Malaysia XI on July 21, 2013 at the Shah Alam Stadium in Shah Alam in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Photographs: Stanley Chou/Getty Images

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The support can stem from their favourite club or their favourite players

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Desh Gaurav Chopra Sekhri

However, the World Cup stirs in Indian fans a remarkable passion for a proxy or deemed national team -- and the team each of us chooses to support varies in its origin, and the reason behind why we support that team.

We as Indians, as is our wont, 'adjust'. So, when it comes to supporting a team for the World Cup, we bank on our empathy and connection with the particular country we end up supporting.

For the truly passionate football fans, the support can stem from their favourite club or their favourite players.

So, Indian supporters of the English Premier League champions ManchesterCity might choose to support England -- or they could choose Argentina for Sergio Aguero, Belgium for Vincent Kompany, or Ivory Coast for Yaya Toure.

Otherwise, one may have ardently supported a particular team for reasons best known to him or her, and that passion continues from one World Cup to the other.

For those with a less passionate bent of mind, it could boil down to where one went abroad to college or school, or visited as a tourist and felt the connection to a way of life. Look at social media, and Indians abound with enthusiasm, supporting the Azzuri, pleading for the Spanish Armada's resilience, or hoping that Lionel Messi can finally translate his magic at the club level into something worth immortalising for Argentina. The excitement is rampant, and it is all-encompassing. 

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Image: Argentina's Lionel Messi takes a free-kick
Photographs: Enrique Marcarian/Reuters

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This World Cup itself is likely to be intense

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Desh Gaurav Chopra Sekhri

For Indians, this really is a World Cup in the truest sense, unlike anywhere else in the world. We can unapologetically support countries and players purely because we want to, not because we have to.

And, barring a few grumbles in the pockets of India where football is the religion of choice, we good-naturedly accept that patriotism can wait, as we support a team that actually participates and has a chance to win it all. Luckily, there's no reason for the enthusiasm to abate if one's favourite team doesn't win or is eliminated early -- we can support another team instead.

This World Cup itself is likely to be intense and competitive.

Spain is less dominant than it has been in recent years, and the host country is sensing a chance to return to the top. Argentina will also like its chances, and in terms of skill and talent, there is no reason to believe that they aren't among the favourites.

Germany is always tough, and both Portugal and Uruguay could be the dark horses. The veteran European sides the Netherlands, France, and Italy might find the going slightly difficult in South America.

Regardless of which team wins it all, one thing is for certain, somehow, somewhere that team will have fans in India celebrating its win, for reasons we Indians know best.


Image: Neymar of Brazil kisses the trophy with his teammates following their victory at the Confederations Cup last year
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

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