Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Indian Super League 2014: Football and other 'not so great' things.

Quick terms: CFC- Chennai FC
NEUFC- North East United FC
dated: 08 November 2014

According to my observation, India has not been one of the countries with a united sensibility. The recent ISL (Indian Super League) match I attended in Chennai only confirmed my belief further.
It is a country where things like withdrawal and humility is considered a weakness.
Qualities like TEAM SPIRIT, SPORTSMANSHIP or minding their own business are very much lacking.
You see, Indians, you have a lot to learn from the North-eastern whom you term as ‘outsiders’. We are peace loving people who believe in not fighting back unnecessarily but try to solve the problems as amicably as possible. We believe in choosing compromise over quarrel leading to the supposed win.
We don’t believe in cheating the other person off. When we keep quite or honest to the point where it may cost us, it is not because we are dumb, but it is because we are raised better and it is beneath us to be sly.
I will tell you what happened that day in the stadium that made me write this piece echoing my previous annoyance once again.
It was 8th of November 2014, - the Nehru stadium-, in Chennai. The stadium was packed with CFC, Chennaiyn fans with lesser but equally passionate supporters of North-east.  I travelled all the way from Bangalore to support my team.
Nehru Stadium, Chennai - NEUFC vs CFC
People from the North east have always loved football and the tradition of fandom is just beautiful. In Chennai, a city far away from home, the eager fans of the North-east team gathered in front of the stadium wearing the team colour white. Banners, jerseys, emblem of the NEUFC were seen everywhere. As I stood there I could hear conversations in familiar languages.
Most of us didn’t even know each other but we took turn painting faces with the team colour red, white and black. It was as if we had been friends for a long time.
NEUFC supporters with banner and CFC Fans at the stadium
Do not assume it is because we are similar or we are from the same place. No. We are very different; we speak different languages and we have different cultural backgrounds. Though you speak the same language you still differentiate among yourself and create differences according to cast, class etc. right? Well, we don’t. We communicate in English yet, we stood there united as one.
As the match proceeded on, some khasis began chanting in their own language, the neighbouring people followed them, including I. Here’s the interesting part, we don’t speak khasi or understand the song yet we were there humming it together.
Now, let’s see how the other team acted. Some of them apparently did not seem to believe in booking tickets in advance or coming on time. So that means a crowded sea of people in the aisle though there were empty seats in the other blocks.
It was their home match, something great and grand. There were CFC flags kept ready in each chair. The merchandise stores outside were filled with CFC T-shirts. Their blue colour swept the entire (almost) stadium, with pecks of NE supporters in white here and there.
What was a grand event didn’t become so grand once they started removing the Stems/Plastic stick of the small flags I mentioned earlier and began throwing it all around. The plastic sticks had some weight and can hurt if thrown with force. So there we are, with the CFC fans from the upper blocks raining down sticks below, on us. And also for some reason they seemed to be attacking the camera person on the field. Once Chennai scored there were flying sticks everywhere. I only hope nobody sustained any injury.
CFC paper torn to pieces and thrown around.
Earlier, I felt bad for wiping the chair with the cloth of the CFC flag (sorry I was wearing a white dress). But I think it can be forgiven because, towards the second half, the CFC Fans who came with the blue CFC banners began shredding it and throwing the pieces all around. Some threw it at us.
As the tension grew on and off field, CFC scored the second goal, the fans went ecstatic. One particular CFC fan came running towards our area, climbed the seats of the NEUFC fans, since everyone was standing at that moment, and started running on top of the seats from one end to the other.
He didn’t stop there. He stood behind one of the NE supporters who was wearing a Mohawk and started fiddling with it. I wanted to push that guy off the chair. But we just don’t do that. The friend of the NE guy with the Mohawk looked back and gave an expression of “are you kidding me?” Then before I could react, the cute NE girl who was standing right next to the Mohawk guy turned back and went ballistic because this particular CFC fan was standing on her seat. I would never have guessed she could even get mad. (There is something hilarious about a cute and calm looking girl getting mad.) Also, it simply means the other person was wrong, really wrong. In the end, she chased him off with the stick, one of the very same flag stem they had been throwing around.
It won’t be fair if I don’t add the other thing I noticed. You see, I was in the seat right behind this commotion, and standing next to me were two CFC fans. From what I could gather from their facial expressions, they were visibly embarrassed by the act of their fellow mate.
I am glad I went to the match for it strengthened my already strong faith in Northeast. But I won’t say the same for the mainland India. I am not the enemy here, in case one of you is reading this. You need to learn from us, us whom you consider ‘outsiders’, ‘foreigners’, ‘Chinese’, ‘stupid’, ‘too stylish’… It is high time to stop the stereotyping and the labelling.
We grew up singing the national anthem of India, the very anthem that forgets to mention a single line about us and our place. We are patriotic and right now we may be  more patriotic towards the place called North-east and not India because we seem to be reminded by ‘Indians’ again and again that we do not belong here.
We moved out to main India with beliefs and hopes and maybe doubts too. Then we saw a lot, more than we asked and bargained for. What more do you have in store for us?

Post Script:
I was supposed to end  on a positive note. I was told that maybe I should not be playing the blame game. Instead I should try to sympathise the bully and not continue the vicious cycle.
I am not trying to continue the cycle nor ‘bully’ or ‘hate you back. But I just cannot be positive about this or sympathise and end my blog on a pathetic understanding note. I just cannot roll over and play the understanding person again, especially with the on-going racist violence and deaths. The latest being the murder of a Ph.D. student (between the timeline of writing and publishing this very blog).
India, it is seriously a time for change, to change big time. And I don’t want to be tolerant because bullying, stereotyping, racism – big or small, is just not forgivable. There is simply no excuse for being mean.
John Abraham - NEUFC

     Special thanks to:
     Thingminao Horam (edits) and
     Reirorpam Duidang (photos)
     Disclaimer: The contributors may not necessarily share 
     the same opinion with the author.
     Images maybe subject copyright of the author.
    Not to be distributed for commercial suppose, strictly a
    personal blog/view.

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