Indians are embracing football and dispelling the myth that cricket is the only sport for them, a satirical documentary episode reveals ahead of a crunch match for the national team tonight.
Released today, the thought-provoking titled ‘Why Do Indians Hate Football?’ film, Episode 2 of the ‘Voices of Asia’ documentary series uncovers a growing appreciation in India for the sport of football and calls on fans to get behind the squad.
Its release is perfectly timed as India prepare to take on the UAE in tonight’s match at 8pm at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Hopes will be high after India stormed to victory in their opening Group A match against Thailand 4-1.
Under the tournament theme of “Bringing Asia Together”, student Pranav Vishwamitra surveys Indians from the UAE to Kerala, India, to examine how the sport is beginning to challenge cricket for a place in the collective consciousness of his home nation.
View Episode 2 here – https://youtu.be/_wWXGd2cglE
Model Sumin Rose said in the film: “There is a special place for football in our hearts. There is a belief that Indians only play cricket but that’s completely wrong: Indian domestic club football has seen exponential growth over the last few years. Indians now feel the need to support their national team.”
Rufus D’Souza, a football coach in Kerala for the past 50 years, also said he had witnessed an upturn in interest. He said: “Thanks to the ISL (Indian Super League) boys are playing football again, football is coming back.”
Another reason for increased interest in the national squad – known as the Blue Tigers – was a passionate appeal to Indian fans watching big European clubs to get behind their countrymen by talisman player Sunil Chhetri, who scored twice in India’s opening match against Thailand.
The video appeal by the player went viral after he urged: “To all of you who are not football fans come and watch us, we play for our country. To all of you who are fans of big European club and you think the level is not the same and think why waste your time: agreed, the level is not even close but with our desire and our determination we’ll try our best to make your time worthwhile.
“Posting comments online isn’t fun, come to the stadium and do it to our faces, scream at us, abuse us. Who knows, one day you might start cheering for us. You guys have no idea how important you are and how important your support is. This is a very important time and juncture in India football and India needs you.”
Rimesh Panikar, president of the Indian Social and Cultural Centre (ISCC) in Abu Dhabi, said: “I would urge all of the Indian community, wherever India is playing, to support their team, it is our responsibility to go watch the games.”
Priya Jethani, TV presenter, also added her voice, saying “Go see them at the stadium, just watch them and patriotism will come about. You will be so happy. Your mindset, your opinions about the national team will change.”
Ashwin Kumar, an actor, said: “Here is an amazing chance to see them live. They deserve all the support from us and I feel very proud to be an Indian. I’ll be there.”
Throughout the series of documentary shorts called “Voices of Asia”, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 has sought to bring to life a number of brilliant personal stories and give a global platform to passionate individuals whose voices might have otherwise gone unheard.
Episode One featured Hareez Al Menhali, the UAE national and superfan who was spotted by cameras in tears at the previous Asian Cup in Australia and whose iconic image became a symbol for both the competition and the powerful emotion of sport. You can view episode one here –https://youtu.be/wEogDCW6mzs
Each episode focuses on individuals from different Asian nationalities, different walks of life, living in the host nation UAE and speaking about their journeys and the personal meaning and dramatic impact the tournament has had on their lives.
By providing a full spectrum of individual voices, the series focuses on the themes of universal humanity, telling the human stories behind the tournament motto of “Bringing Asia Together”.
Supporters can still purchase tickets for the games, which are easily purchased online via www.asiancup2019.com and at Virgin Megastores outlets, with prices starting from just Dhs25.