2/26/2018 10:31:42 PM (GMT+3)

Legacy of ‘Walled City’s football culture in Delhi

Legacy of ‘Walled City’s football culture in Delhi

When I came to Delhi in 1996, it became a daily routine to hire a pedalled-rickshaw and roam around the old city as I wanted to feel its football pulse amid the crumbling walls and three surviving gates.

Delhi finished runners-up behind Bengal in the inaugural Santosh Trophy in Calcutta in 1941, but Delhi avenged their defeat in the second edition.

Interestingly, that was Delhi's only triumph in the National Championship, but I always felt it has the potential to do well at the national level.

Heard from the old-timers that the old city traders had encouraged and patronised the sport.

When YS Yadav, Sheikh Mohammad Shafiq, Mohammad Yasin and Hameed Khan sat under a tree at the historic Sunehri Masjid in old Delhi pre-1947, it had turned out to be a sunehra moment for Delhi.

Views were exchanged and Nationals came into existence. The decision to form the team was later unanimously passed during a meeting held at the bylanes of historic Turkman Gate at House No. 2383, Kucha Mir Hashim, Chitli Qabar.

Others also followed suit which helped the emergence of City Club, Shastri FC, Youngmen, Mughals, and Indian Nationals.

Such was the clubs’ aura that even common folks came forward with generous contributions as Nationals and City became a part of their lives.

So, despite the absence of the club tents like in Calcutta, football lived in every nook and corner of old Delhi.

However, post 2000 the sport struggled to stay afloat due to multiple reasons. Slowly it delinked itself from every stakeholders including the media and sponsors.

The interests among its fans dwindled with the advent of the live European League matches on their TV sets while the parent body got involved into squabbles over petty politics.

A large chunk of fans turned away from the local leagues, which was a big draw even till 1997-98.

However, the escalating costs became a little too difficult for the owners to run their clubs and, some even sold their rights to concentrate on their businesses.

I found a stark similarity between the old Delhi’s decay and the dwindling fortune of Walled City’s football culture.

But there is a ray of light as the new body, which was elected last December, announced a slew of marketing promotions and brand strategies including ‘Football Delhi’ replacing ‘Delhi Soccer Association’ to revive interests.