Wandering through the streets of India, sport is a common sight. More often than not, the game that you would get to chance your eyes upon is cricket, with kids in the streets turning even the narrowest of alleys into makeshift cricket venues. Football too, initially in certain pockets, and over the years gradually all over the country has managed to seep into the sporting realm of kids.
Tune into the now, and there are a whole host of activities that involve good amounts of physical fitness that have become popular, but have not necessarily become mainstream – Beach hockey, ultimate Frisbee, rugby and American football.
I had the opportunity to talk to a few players from the Elite Football League of India (EFLI), America’s NFL-type machination that has been brought to Indian shores thanks to the efforts of a group of enthusiasts of the game. While initially people found it hard to fathom that such a game was indeed played in India about a year ago, after listening to these athletes speak about their experiences, you are drawn to the inescapable conclusion that these players did not so much as get into the game for the money, as for the excitement and thrill that came with it.
Advent of the EFLI and other sport
To many people, the league represents yet another attempt by mainstream American sport to expand its reach to countries outside of North America. American sport hasn’t always captured the imagination of folks in India; basketball and the NBA has its bastions of fans, but they are far flung and less in number, though there is a concerted effort on now by schools, colleges, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the NBA to change all that.
It would also be surprising to many to know that games such as ice hockey, baseball, boxing, ultimate martial arts and many other sports based out of America have made an attempt to invade the Indian sport psyche without so much as causing a ripple.
The only American sport-like export that has been a huge success is WWE, which is of course staged drama, so cannot really be judged along with the other proper sports that tried their luck.
They have faced the same fate as breakfast cereal giant Kellogg’s, which made an attempt to gatecrash the Indian breakfast scene close to 15 years ago, only to find that Indians loved their parathas, dosas, idlis and pohas a little too much and managed to not even cause a dent with the most success they obtained being from the Chocos brand which the kids loved.