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My Love Story with Football

I have been engrossed with football for a while now. From it being my favorite game in my childhood to working with India’s first ever FIFA tournament, the it’s been an exhilarating ride. I have covered Indian Football, researched about Indian football and ultimately worked with Indian football.
But let’s start with ground zero. This post is about my love for football. Everyone has a story as to how they fell in love with the game and this is my story.

Football is particularly a favorite pass time in Assam, the place I come from.  I wouldn’t necessarily say that Assam is a football crazy land. But back in the days, Bordoloi Trophy was one of India’s foremost football tournament, and the residents of the state flocked in numbers to witness national and international giants locking horns with each other.

The fandom for the game in Assam, might be relatively less than its neighboring North Eastern states. But there is a deep rooted connect within the Assamese society for the game of football. We might not be visibly crazy for the game as the Bengalis are, or might seem passive compared to how the Malayalees are for the game. But I kid you not, the fandom is there in our DNA.

As I mentioned before, football has been the preferred pastime for the Assamese for generations. My earliest memory of the game doesn’t go back to a Premier League game or a World Cup game which I watched with my family. But rather dates back to the tales of my grandfather, who passed away in 2017, aged 106. 2017 was also the year, India hosted its first ever FIFA tournament.   

My grandfather used to tell me how he played football with a dry grapefruit, locally called as Robab Tenga in Assam. He talked about he used to go out with his friends, into the paddy fields, after the rice was harvested, for a game of football. And he comes from a very remote village of lower Assam.

Grape-fruit Source:

My maternal grandfather on the other hand, coming from a little bit privileged family, used to narrate me tales about Bordoloi Trophy, when he and his friends used to sit atop a bus to come to Guwahati and watch Mohun Bagan play.

My association with the game, however, started with my school, who had quite a bit of name in the city for its cricket team but had a very healthy football culture. There was this inter-class football tournament which the school hosted, where every class, every section from the middle school to the higher secondary level used to participate. And each batch used to practice for this tournament throughout the year.

I kid you not, such was the seriousness of the tournament that each team had its own distinct jersey designed, with numbers and names printed. And how serious the games were? Well, once we played a class senior to us and the opposition was awarded a goal in an unjustified way. We walked away in the middle of the game and the entire class of 46 students, sat in front of the principal’s office, protesting and asking for a rematch. The rematch happened and we lost the game, 4-0. Let’s not talk about what happened after that.

The School Ground where I started playing football

The love for football grew from that. After school hours were not spent on TV Video games of on computer games, but rather on football grounds, where seniors and juniors made teams to play against each other. It was in such spaces, where I got introduced to clubs like Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid, because my fellow players used to get their jerseys to the ground.

I did not have access to cable television for a very long time. So, wasn’t fortunate enough to witness televised football in my childhood. World Cup was the only exception, because DD used to run packaged highlights every day. But my love for football grew immensely because I played the game and through the interaction of my peer groups.

Summer vacations used to be the golden days, when in the early mornings, a bunch of us used to visit a ground near the Assam Secretariat, called the Janta Bhawan for a game of community football. From professional players to senior citizens, everyone came there for a good game. And post the match, we were treated with black tea and rice cakes by the seniors.

I was frequent this is classmate of mine, who was also my neighbor, Nibir. He was one of the best footballers from my batch. We used to practice together in his terrace, with him teaching me ball control and the importance of first touch. If I missed the ball, it used to fall 3 stories down and I had to climb down to fetch it. This is how I became more closer to the game. Nibir, in a very unfortunate incident, passed away in 2018, on the day of the finals of the FIFA World Cup, Russia 2018.

I lost touch with the game as I inched closer to the class 10 boards. My family, very serious about academics, made me study and immediately after my boards sent me to Delhi to be a doctor.

But as faith would have it, post 12th, I ended up working for an Indian football magazine, and started following the game ever more closely. This is where I started following leagues from Europe and became a victim of the marking aspect of the game. That is a story for the later.

But why I love the game, is not because I was hooked on to the televised boom of the game, because I grew up with the game. Everyone has their own story about how they fell for football. This is my story.


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