Last week I got a group invite on Facebook. It was to join the official Arsenal Supporters Club, Delhi. This was in time for Saturday’s big game against Liverpool, so an event invite to watch the match with other fans followed. I curiously joined the group pledging my allegiance to a North London club sitting in Gurgaon. I did however make it clear that I will not be able to make the event. My reasons were borderline stupid, but we all have our quirks.
Yes I like watching the game on HD and yes listening to the experts during the half time break does feel like a better idea than bickering like little girls yourself. These eccentricities one has to concede whilst among other football fanatics. It’s so painfully imperative to have an opinion when you’re sitting in a group. Anyway, I’m not going to bother you any further with my personal television preferences and my allergy to prescribed group dynamics. Instead, I’d like to reiterate that there is an Arsenal Supporters Club in Delhi. This means there are young football fans and not all of them are Bengali.
For a country that has produced generation after generation of cricket fans, young people outside Calcutta talking about footie comes as a bit of surprise. Of course, in Cal they’ve been talking about everything since forever.
Anyway, when I woke up this afternoon, recovering from a dodgy hangover, I heard a football being thumped around. I thought, maybe I’m hallucinating, watching too many goal highlights from the night before. Soon I realized though, these aren’t jagged visions, nor is it merely afternoon. Dusk was just about setting in, and there were kids in the park outside, tucking away goals between make shift brick posts. I went out to watch them play and realized instantly that not only were they good at it individually, but also as little units. That was surprising because my memory of playing football in school was that of the whole class running after a loose ball and then scrambling and squirting it in the general direction of a north eastern student who would basically outrun the rest of the class to score what was usually the solitary goal in the game as after that everybody decided we should stick to cricket.
That was then, this is now:
Have a look at this Pepsi India ad. Now, creatively it isn’t a work of genius but of what I’ve observed over the weekend and fleetingly over my interactions with the teenage lot the game is certainly changing. I’m not saying cricket is over, but this time when Pepsi pronounces “change the game” there is a strong social current that it seems to be riding. Ranbir Kapoor isn’t old mind you, but in this ad, he best plays a final year college student trying to influence his school going younger brother to switch to cricket. The younger and seemingly more talented of the 2 is disinterested yet focussed on the ball. The expression turns cocky-side- smile eventually when he heads open a Pepsi vending machine to demonstrate the value of his skill.
It’s however, the juggling youth’s concluding response to his elder bother’s constant pestering that interests me the most: “Thoda football bhi Khel liya karo, kaam aata hai”. “Play some football, it comes in handy” is definitely not powerful enough endorsement for the top game in the world. Even though Pepsi is on the button sensing the change of preference amongst the urban youth, it is treading carefully. You can’t patronize or alienate cricket completely. Not just yet. Footwork still means how close you get to an out swinging over pitched delivery while cover driving.
So it’s a half statement, I would think a teaser or an experiment to bigger campaigns with this plank.
This post too is a little teaser on a more thorough research that we’re undertaking to test this preference skew. Watch this space and some weekend football, “kaam aata hai”.