It&’s as sure as eggs is eggs that a certain segment of the media – the one that mistakes Shah Rukh Khan for Gautam Gambhir, and vice versa – will in due season find itself awestruck and even agreeably overwhelmed if football&’s Indian premier league gets going.
David Beckham, Raul Gonzalez and Thierry Henry are names that, over the years, have meant a lot to lots of people the world over who saw them in action in their – the players, not the fans – prime. But, even before I-League clubs, quite legitimately, vocally and unitedly opposed having to free their own players for the city-specific entities that would putatively make up the show, the question that Mr Average Man might have wanted the All-India Football Federation to ask the International Management Group was a rather obvious one: Why must it leave Indian fans short-changed?
The troika that&’s been projected as the competition&’s poster boys – there&’s this proviso, though, that one or two of it mightn’t actually be playing – is made up of virtually superannuated celebrities who, in 2013, are merely famous for being famous. Gonzalez, of course, carries on in West Asia, but every time we look at him, we’re reminded of his glorious days with Real Madrid and, of course, Spain. Football, in a sense, is a cruel game.
Cricket accommodates, often profitably, new-ball bowlers who, aging, lose much of their pace but gain a lot of control in terms of swing; spinners can – and do – get better in their primary craft as the years pass.
But a footballer who&’s lost a yard of pace is usually little more than a has-been, even though defenders sometimes get by by dint of an experienced-sharpened sense of anticipation. None of it, and not even Beckham&’s long-cherished and undeniable dead-ball skills, will ever be preferred to watching top players at their peak in seriously combative action with no quarters given and none asked for.
In short, one&’s money&’s worth, if we’re to interpret the customary exchanges in the cost-benefit-analyses spirit of the times. Praful Patel and his factotums, however, haven’t been able, from all accounts, to wring any promise from IMG that only the world&’s finest footballers will be featured in the show they plan.
Truth to tell, they’d have drawn a blank had they tried for the simple reason that no operator, however shrewd and smooth, will ever be persuasive enough to split Leo Messi from Barcelona, or Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid, or Robin van Persie from Manchester United for this tournament which is a commercial venture, plain and simple in its objective but unprecedented in its cheek in that it wants the I-League clubs to part with their players so IMG, once the hurly-burly is done, can laugh all the way to the bank, with globally famous profiles making for oodles of ad revenues.
Bayern Munich were none too happy, only the other day, that they were obliged to release their eminently useful Brazilians precisely when they needed them for the German Cup final – and the footballers were required by their country for a friendly (note for desk: no error here) with England.
It is the clubs that employ the players, and if an employer can’t really be faulted for not being inclined to let his employee relish a peripatetic life in endless moonlighting.
A player&’s national duty is one thing, though, and an Indian football league spanning just a few weeks with no history or pedigree, quite another.
It&’s not unlikely that I-League clubs will be sought to be silenced with cash carrots – Patel can’t really swish the stick around, not if the clubs don’t goof it up rather badly – but the worst thing about the entire enterprise is that it takes the Indian football buff for granted.
That&’s also why the AIFF&’s complicity in it is so galling – and we’ve all seen how, through the latest European season, Germany&’s national federation has been spoken so admiringly of here, there and everywhere in the wake of Bayern Munich&’s world-wowing achievements.
If the DFB legislated for the game&’s regeneration in Germany, and ensured enforcement, the AIFF will go down in history as the chief wrecker of the game in its own domain. It&’s that bad.