Chennai, Oct 29: Loud chants and pints of beer flowed around at a famous sports bar in Chennai, as a crowd of 80 people watched an English Premier League football match. It almost seemed as if football looks to displace cricket as a cult sport.
“Nowadays, our customers are mostly youngsters who inquire about football telecast on our big screen”, says the caretaker of Paddington sports club in Nandanam.
Football is also more exciting, says Nandini, a commerce student, who adds that the overload of cricket has made the public indifferent to the fortunes of the sport.
Football has gained prominence in India due to increased worldwide coverage, the introduction of the Indian Super League tournament(ISL) and hosting the FIFA under-17s worldcup in 2017. Many European clubs have started to set up academies to train footballers from under-8 age level, such as Atletico Madrid’s set up in the city of Kolkata.
“The influx of foreign superstars in the Indian Super League has definitely helped sway viewers from cricket”, says Karthik Parimal, a sports analyst of the football portal soccersouls.
He also claims that the reception of the Indian Super League has been more than the last few seasons of the Indian Premier League cricket, which has continuted its downtrend in ratings since IPL-3.
Abhishek Ruthwick, administrator of the official Chelsea Football Club India fanclub says, “The number of new fans have been increasing constantly for the past 3 years. The last few screenings saw an average of 150 people in Chennai, compared to the minimum numbers we struggled to make initially.”
The increase of popularity in football can also be attributed to successful marketing of the football videogames such as Electronic Arts(EA) Sports’ FIFA series or Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series on various consoles.
L.Nataraj, an employee of Odyssey book store in Adyar says, “We re-sell lot of second hand games, but do not have one copy of FIFA 14, as nobody wants to give it away.”
Copies of the latest game in the FIFA series, FIFA 15 has already been sold out, says Ramesh Babu of Gypsy video games in Egmore, before adding that there is at least a 10 per cent increase in demand for the FIFA series every year.
P.Trivikram, a FIFA enthusiast, attributes the success of FIFA games over Cricket due to the dedication towards production of a version every year. “There has been no cricket game from EA since 2007, so the sport has definitely taken a hit as you relate to the sport more by getting involved”, he says.
Bharadwaj, proprieter of the shop Gamestation in Arcot Road says, “Though there are interactive consoles like the Nintendo Wii or the Xbox Kinect, cricket is in less demand than FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer.” Football is here to stay, he says.