Back in September of 2011 is when fans witnessed a spectacular international friendly being staged on Indian soil. Argentina and Venezuela locked horns at a jam-packed Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.
While the entire crowd present in the stands had only one name dominating their chants – Messi! Messi! Messi! – and it only got louder, not many realised that a certain silent hero who now plays alongside Sunil Chhetri was in the Venezuelan line up facing the FC Barcelona man’s side.
Yes, it was Nicolas Fedor, commonly known as, Miku, who was one of the starting eleven for his nation, sweating it out in humid Kolkata on September 2, 2011.
On a side note, this very fixture was also the game where Lionel Messi donned the captain’s armband for his national side for the first time, and fans present in the stands that day can proudly tuck that safely into their flaunting arsenal.
A (then) 26-year-old Miku, during his Getafe days was here in India before of a large and loud Kolkata crowd playing his heart out for the win against Argentina. Who knew he would become such a hero in our motherland only few years later!
Although Messi & Co. emerged triumphant during that battle, courtesy a Nicolas Otamendi goal, the Venezuelans fought hard and ensured they make it a tough task for their opponents to taste victory.
This fixture between the two nations completely changed the way the world viewed India as a footballing nation. It was one event that put our country up on the football maps of the world, and changed global perspectives on India’s football following.
Up until very recently, say until the Indian Super League (ISL) came into the picture, the state of affairs of Indian football was very different.
Before the ISL, domestic football was never marketed or followed closely by fans in the country – be it profiting on sponsorships, broadcasting deals or even merchandise, Indian football was just never as popular amid the fans in India.
This game at the Salt Lake Stadium ignited a spark towards development. Since then, India has seen the curation of the ISL, and how well the sport has been marketed and promoted in the country!
It has certainly created a positive buzz around football, especially with international players coming in to be a part of the franchises. India even hosted the FIFA Under-17 World Cup only last year, which again, gave the country a lot of exposure and push towards the global footballing scene.