IPL vs I-League: Consumerism has changed the Bengali mindset
The cool breeze from the Hooghly river brought back some succour to a city usually affected by the sweat and humidity. It was an overcast sky and the first week of May surprisingly looked quite pleasant. Last year, a brisk walk from Curzon Park near BBD Bag to Ho Chi Min Sarani gave me some kind of a strange feeling – old memories of my struggling days in sports journalism returned back.
The Eden Gardens now boasts of ‘Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo Re’, as the outer walls of the stadium were pasted with the golden and black colors of KKR.
Yet, with all those multiple sports clubs spread all over, the Maidan still hasn’t lost much of its lush green texture. Probably, it remained the same as it was some 100 years back, or when I left the city in 1996. I could still feel the freshness of the green belt, untouched by the mercenaries.
Though Calcutta remained one of the passionate cities, I felt a blockage in its footballing vein. This year, the IPL mercenaries have found their way from the Eden Gardens to the city’s exclusive footballing venue – Salt Lake Stadium on the eastern fringes of Calcutta. Cricket is a multi-billion dollar business, and after KKR’s success last season, it has now established its rein and is almost set to knock the I-League from the Salt Lake Stadium.
Genetically, Bengalis are known to be idealists who would seldom chase huge chunks of wealth. Music, poetry, paintings and football gave them an identity as they weren’t known to be an expert in entrepreneurship. That was the domain which belonged to the Marwari and Gujrati communities of the city.
But with the advent of consumerism and IPL, there has been a change. The Bengali youth, which also included those from the non-Bengali communities who were born in the city, became addicted to the jazzy IPL as I-League lacked the colour and energy. These youth prefer a fast-forward game which identifies them. Football, much due to the lack of aggressive marketing, has been shot down by the consumerist IPL.
Still, the city lives in the Mohun Bagan-East Bengal derbies. But have the large section of the real ‘Bengalis’ really tried hard to stop the game from being hurled to the Hooghly river?
After the recent changes in schedule of the I-Leauge, it may appear that both the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Indian Football Association (IFA) have kept quiet without raising their voices against hosting the IPL opening ceremony at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Even top clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan haven’t spoken much, because some of their officials are also honorary members in the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), parent body of Bengal’s cricket. So, it becomes a privilege for them to strike a pose with Shahrukh Khan and Juhi Chawla – KKR co-owners.
IPL hasn’t intruded football. In fact, it is consumerism which has forced to change the taste of the Bengalis, who I know would have never compromised with the game’s future. But again, we’re talking about huge chunks of money in the sport, which sadly isn’t there in the I-League.
India’s premier football tournament is set to resume in the city on March 20. But the venue, the Salt Lake Stadium, has already been booked by the IPL authorities for its opening ceremony on April 2.
Six I-League games will be shifted to Kalyani, on the outskirts of Calcutta, and that’s a real advertisement for the I-League.
Bengalis, who are known to raise their voice against any unjust acts, surprisingly have kept quiet. I’m sure, by the next decade, they will lose their identity, and their ‘sera khela’ would be replaced by an even stronger IPL.