Posts tagged mumbai
Freestyle Football

He introduced himself as Mario, and after a few minutes of speaking, it transpired that he was a freelance footballer based here in Mumbai. I was intrigued to find out more, and Mario kindly invited me to join him and a friend the following day for practice at a nearby ground. Curious to discover more about the origins of Mario’s freestyle career, and to learn about where this form of the game fits into Indian football culture, the next day I was up and at it, en route to Vile Parle to find out more.

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Forza India

After experiencing top flight Indian football (witnessing Mumbai City FC's Friday night ISL victory), I was curious to find about more about the other end of the spectrum - the grassroots. It’s clear that despite the recent growth and increased interest in the domestic game, to truly develop and scale the impact football has in India will be a lengthy, generational task.

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Sleeping Giant

Keen to dig deeper into why India holds this status, and more importantly, what can be done to awaken the giant from its slumber, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Anjali Shah from the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

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The Oscar Foundation

Tucked away down a typically chaotic Mumbai side street in Colaba, OSCAR’s headquarters were full to the brim, a whole host of meetings and conversations taking place as I arrived. As Ashok began to tell his story, and the story of the foundation, I could see very quickly this was about far more than just football. 

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Not enough footballs

I instantly made the comparison with cricket, wondering how another sport (arguably more complicated and less accessible than football), had managed to transcend the layers of Indian society to become the powerhouse it is today. This was clearly a familiar question to Rohit and Mangesh, who simultaneously smiled and sighed before launching into their responses.

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Faking it

This quest for an Indian football shirt did not go unnoticed by colleagues and friends. One suggested that whilst local football culture in Mumbai was only just emerging, in the state of Goa it was a thriving force. My friend was himself Goan in origin, and boasted a collection of over 10 FC Goa shirts of his own, one of which he kindly donated to me in the last week of my trip.

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The search for the shirt

Having collected a local shirt in every city I’ve visited over the last few years (as part of a growingly expensive but satisfying habit), I felt I must be able to find one during my six weeks. The crest of the newly founded (2014) Mumbai City FC was modern and crisp, featuring the castled top of the Gateway to India, and beneath it a train carriage representing the city’s railways.

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It was all Anelka's fault...

This sparked my interest, and further googling revealed a glimmer of celebrity and known entity in the Indian league. Freddie Ljungberg had played for Mumbai a few years previously as their first landmark signing, and fellow Gunner Robert Pires turned out for FC Goa. Brazilian legend Zico was Goa’s manager during my time in Mumbai, and his countryman Roberto Carlos finished his illustrious career at Delhi Dynamos.

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