In the previous part of this post, I expressed concern over the general lack of infrastructure in India in the field of sports other than cricket and how that is manifested in India’s dismal performance in sporting events.
In this one, I will cite a couple of incidents which will highlight my point to the glaring difference in the perception of football in India and England.
If you missed the post and the ad that triggered it, here is the post and below is the ad.
On March 17, 2012, when Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the ground at White Hart Lane in the match against Tottenham Hotspur, he was immediately taken care of by several medics who tried to resuscitate him, before he was taken to the nearby London Chest Hospital, where he was attended to promptly. Jonathan Tobin, Bolton’s team doctor, later said that Muamba was ‘dead’ for about 78 minutes (his heart was not beating for that duration). Andrew Deaner, a consultant cardiologist at the London Chest Hospital, happened to be at the match with his brother. An ardent Tottenham fan, he rushed down the stands to help Muamba. His help was considered a life-saver.
Incidentally, just three days after Muamba’s incident, an Indian footballer D Venkatesh also collapsed on the ground at the Bangalore Football Stadium due to a cardiac arrest. Venkatesh did not receive any medical help. Without resuscitation or defibrillators, the chances of survival dropped significantly. The absence of spectators made it impossible to get any sort of external help. Venkatesh could not even be rushed to the hospital because the club did not have an ambulance or crew readily available. He was taken in an autorickshaw and was given CPR and defibrillators shocks at the hospital but it was too late. The doctor who attended to Venkatesh reiterated that had Venkatesh been given oxygen or proper medical care earlier, he would have stood a chance of survival.
The nature of the two incidents bears a striking resemblance but the actions taken after the incidents are shockingly contrasting. The lack of proper infrastructure, the absence of a crowd to help out, the lack of medical facilities and mechanisms took the life of an aspiring footballer. The difference in the events stands out to highlight the polarity in the treatment of football in India and England.
A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Muamba received instant help from club officials and English spectators, who hoped for a rapid recovery and prayed for him. A man ‘dead’ for 78 minutes was brought back to life by the team of doctors while the world prayed for his survival. On the other hand, Venkatesh received help only from his team-mates, who tried to rush him to the hospital the best way they could, where he was pronounced dead a while later.
Such sad events are bound to weaken the morale of a country already fanatic about cricket. Though football is now gaining traction in India, the overall scheme of things is still culpable. The issues that India faced in the 1950s are largely untouched.
Large brands such as Pepsi and Ranbir Kapoor can, and need to, introduce change in the mindset of the Indian masses. Pepsi made an attempt to do so through its Football T20 tournament. What remains to be seen is the impact, if any, of the advertisement on the masses. People need to begin to embrace the core message conveyed through the ad and not dismiss it as a money-minting scheme of brands. If we begin to accept the need to change, there is hope that football in India could be revived. I’m certain that we, as a country of over a billion people, can produce eleven fantastic players who can get home the coveted World Cup.
But before we even set course for the road to the World Cup, we need to ask ourselves – are we really ready to “Change the game”? Are we even ready to begin to accept the need to change? Or are we going to rely on the shield of cricket to be used at the mention of the word sport? Time will tell the tale.