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EFLI: Tapping into the Indian sports psyche with American Football

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VarunR

A nation which is intoxicated by the fervour of the sport of the colonizers is what many have always known India as. To subscribe to such an understanding, is to overlook India’s multifariousness of participation in the realm of sports. Be it lacrosse, ice hockey or even kite-flying, India is not alien to any, although it’s level of activity in some might still be characterized as being wedged in the dormant state.

India’s affiliations with full-contact team sports such as rugby dates back to the 19th century, yet, it is one of the lesser known, and, definitely, lesser advertised sports in India.

On the other hand, American Football, unlike rugby, seems to be pacing up the rungs of success in India.

The popularity of this particular sport in India, has gained much momentum, and, it can undoubtedly be attributed to the introduction of the Elite Football League of India, which is the first of its kind in the subcontinent.

It’s first regular season was set in motion in September 2012, the unfamiliarity of the sport among the masses, was a matter of concern in the initial stages, but nonetheless, with its dilating baggage of prospects within the subcontinent, it has already garnered a large number of followers.

Yet, the most significant decision promulgated by this youthful organization, has been the introduction of American football at the University level. Presently, 10 universities have signed up for the league, and the EFLI hopes to include many more in the future.

The potential for growth of the sport of American Football is thus elevated when Universities are included, wherein the youth of the country are sensitized about its presence. The greater exposure of the younger generation to a relatively alien sport provides greater opportunities for garnering support and popularity.

Another significant factor which serves the purpose of drawing in attention is the presence of prominent foreign investors. This in turn helps facilitate the development of the sport through greater global associations.

Ron Jonarowski, Kurt Warner, Mike Ditka and Brandon Chillar are names not well known within the subcontinent, although they hold celebrity statuses within the United States of America. These individuals are not only the prominent investors, but also pros in the sport, who seek to render their versatile understanding of the nuances of the sport to its development in a foreign land.

The EFLI is supported by the Sports Authority of India, thus reiterating the fact that its goals are long term, and showcasing its commitment towards the development of the sport in the subcontinent.

Roshan Lobo, EFLI MVP, who plays for the Bangalore contingent, talks about how apprehensive his parents were in letting him participate in a dangerous sport such as gridiron football. It is quite evident that parents unaware about such a sport might not seem very supportive towards their children who would like to take up this sport, initially.

Roshan Lobo, MVP of season 1 of EFLI

He elucidated as to how people reckoned this particular venture would also be unsuccessful like the rugby union in India, but instead has turned out to be otherwise. This verifies its feasibility in the Indian context, wherein leagues of various other sports like cricket and hockey, have achieved worldwide acclaim.

Nevertheless the difficulty of taping into the psyche of a nation where certain sports have nobbled the public eye for ages cannot be overlooked. The sport however, has well and truly arrived with the first season in Sri Lanka setting a fine example of things to come in the near future and with season two fast approaching this year, the sport can look to build upon the foundation set by the first edition.


Edited by Staff Editor

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