Old Delhi loses its football mojo
NEW DELHI: Like Old Delhi’s crumbling walls, football also seems to have fallen into pieces in the Walled City. Dwarka-based Delhi United’s maiden league title on Tuesday laid bare the truth about the once flourishing, now struggling clubs like Indian Nationals, City FC, Moonlight, Mughals, Shastri FC, Youngmen which have been relegated to the ‘A’ Division from Super Division.
These clubs have lost the motivation and passion to run their teams due to lack of funds. “Most of these club owners of Walled City are businessmen. They used to pump in a lot of money into the clubs but gradually lost interest after their businesses suffered. They even failed to tap potential sponsors,” explained Syed Shaheen, Delhi Soccer Association secretary. Shaheen, who also played for Nationals and Moonlight in the early seventies, feels that non-availability of grounds in this part of city is also one of the main reasons for the decline of the clubs.
Besides the paucity of funds, Old Delhi clubs also didn’t make an effort to attract a new generation of young football fans. Top clubs like Nationals and City once boasted of a huge fan base in Old Delhi but their fan-base shrunk with the emergence of a new breed of young fans more keen on cricket. The downslide had begun. In stark contrast, newly crowned champions DUFC – formerly known as Gorkha Heroes – Simla Youngs and even Hindustan FC realized early that ‘community involvement’ was the only way to make the cut.
They adopted new initiatives like youth development programmes and promoted their clubs through social networking sites. Today, Delhi United have been able to carve a niche in Delhi football. So, has the sun set on Walled City’s football? Sharafatullah, 60, once a top player and now the secretary of City FC, believes that old Delhi’s football is going through its worst phase and attributed the decline to the downfall of some well-known schools in the region.
“Many top Delhi players came from schools like Ango-Arabic (Ajmeri Gate), PGDAV (Daryaganj) and Raisina (Bengali Market) where football was the first choice. After the decline of football in these schools, there are virtually no takers for the game,” he said.
Delhi United’s emergence as a top club underlines the fact that with new set of ideas a club can achieve success. As an entrepreneur, Bahadur Singh Mehra, 37, turned his ideas into reality with excellent planning backed by his marketing skills to develop a team that was playing in the lower division three years back into a top-notch team.
“Sports is a huge entertainment industry and football is a commodity. Hence, we only focused on the development and promotion of the game and abstained from inter-club politics. That’s been the secret behind our success,” said Mehra, the patron of the club.
Even the venue shift in DSA league this year from the traditional Ambedkar Stadium to a new and swanky Thyagraj Stadium was a refreshing one. “Old Delhi has a football fan-base and initially we were not expecting too many people. It is after 25 years that the league has been held outside the Ambedkar, so we were a bit apprehensive whether the club supporters would come for the matches. Surprisingly, a lot of people came to watch all our matches,” said former Delhi captain Rishi Kapoor, who led DUFC to their maiden title win.