How profit trumped passion in the beautiful game

71177424Shougat Dasgupta at Caravan:

Being a football fan used to be about being local, about sublimated parochialism, about pride in your team and, synecdochically, your neighbourhood, your city, your country. Supporting a football team was an expression of solidarity, an assertion of community. Football culture was by its nature insular, and this was as true in India as, say, in Britain. Take Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow, Al Ahly and Zamalek in Cairo, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in Kolkata: all local rivalries with attendant histories of identity, immigration, belonging, class, even food; rivalries made piquant by proximity. It was a culture built on shared experience, on being at the stadium with your people, on active partisan support. There is no need to gloss over the violence such insularity can breed—the deaths of sixteen fans in Kolkata in 1980, for instance, when a derby unravelled into a riot—to acknowledge how intrinsic football once was to fans’ understanding of their place in the world.

Early in Dev Dutta Roy’s An Incredible Tale from the Beautiful Game—an awful novel made endearing by the author’s affection and enthusiasm for Kolkata football—is a throwaway sentence that encapsulates what it once meant to be a football fan. “It was a Sunday morning of September,” he writes. “All the newspapers of Calcutta, of which Dadu used to buy three—Anandabazar and Juganter in Bengali and The Statesman in English—were talking about a great match that was going to be played four fifteen that afternoon … I and Kakka never missed such a big match. We were morally bound to be there.”

Morally bound to be there.

more here.