Overseas Indians Passionate About World Cup

“After India defeated Pakistan, I don’t care if they even lost against Afghanistan,” says a fan.

Letter from New Delhi

 By Kul Bhushan

“After India defeated Pakistan, I don’t care if they even lost against Afghanistan,” said Dr Mohan Menon, who lives in Wayne City near Chicago and is going to the UK to watch the final matches of the current World Cup. Since most US channels do not telecast cricket, he subscribes to Willow TV to get all the cricket action with his friends.

Hundreds of overseas Indians have reached Britain to attend these matches. They are from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mauritius, Canada, the Middle East among other countries in addition to avid fans from participating teams of their respective countries.

Most definitely, Indians in Britain tend to support their home countries against England; however, the loyalties are split amongst those born there and their parents. Frenzied yelling out for the country they support and often using a lot of banter against the opposition on social media platforms; at times crossing the boundaries in offending their opponents! And young women also attend these matches yelling out the country they support. Fans often upload a lot of banter against the opposition on social media platforms, at times crossing the boundaries of offending their opponents!

Interestingly, although Mauritians support India but they also support South Africa in other matches. The Caribbean people who are reputed in Britain for violence, rarely show vulgar displays during West Indies team matches. Compare this to Indians and Pakistanis fans cheering and dancing for their home teams. With a large number of Afghanis and Sri Lankans in Australia, the support for these two teams is high. Already, the Australians are focused on The Ashes with attractive promotions. Australian TV channels only cover matches with their national team so local Indians rely on Indian channels to watch other matches.

Major Indian matches are ‘Karoga’ events for Kenya Indian fans. Karoga is a Swahili for stirring the pot, in this case chicken curry, reports Anil Vidyarthi from Nairobi. Around 20 Karoga places in Nairobi and Mombasa with the best cooks, Indian fans converge here with their families. Watching WC matches on huge screens, the men cook as the women take a break as hard and soft drinks flow freely.

In Uganda, most Indians are glued to their TVs for these matches but the rich in Kololo suburb of Kampala move to their gardens with big screens and barbeques, reports Vali Jamal, author of forthcoming book on the Asians. “Single-malt was the drink of preference. Some audiences for India-Pakistan clash were 60:40 Hindu: Muslim, so cheers were apportioned accordingly. Some were British Ugandans and half of them said that in a match India/Pakistan vs England, they would support England,” he wrote.

“All the Indian diasporas take lot of interest in cricket, which is a second God in India and abroad,” wrote Praful Patel, leader of the Uganda Asians in Britain.

Commented British author and journalist, Shamlal Puri, “Normally, cricket does not occupy so much time and space in the minds of British sports fans, in particular, the Asian community – their concentration is on football. But it is a different ball game when it comes to major cricketing events like the World Cup and where India and Pakistan are playing. Amazingly, a lot of patriotic fervour is seen with flags flying and wrapped around the torsos and miles long smiles. Many also paint their faces with their native country’s flag colours! Those who are lucky enough to obtain tickets watch live matches; others make do with TV at home or selected pubs which screen live WC matches.”

He adds that these avid fans show their support by mostly holding and waving flags, wearing turbans in Indian colours, wearing Indian cricket shirt colours or those kept in the wardrobes from previous matches. They swill beer cans shouting encouragement to their favourite players until their throats go hoarse! Reports Shamlal: Women too enjoy these matches! Enthusiastic women turn up to watch live matches, paint their faces with national colours, wave their ancestral country’s flags. The younger Indian women are seen swigging from beer cans!

When the India vs Pakistan match was going on, the streets of mostly Indian suburbs in Britain were empty as everyone was stuck to their TV sets but once India won, the fans came out and happily drummed and danced Bhangra to block the streets. In Leicester, two main roads were closed to traffic with this boisterous celebration, reports Jolly Seth, an estate agent. The Guajaratis were seen performing the Garba dance not only in Wembley but also outside Leicester Square tube station in central London!

Football is more popular than cricket among the young Indians in the UK. However, support of cricket is growing in England due to international stars playing their club cricket there as well as English or foreign players featuring heavily in the EPL. People in UK are crazy about the EPL – Asian restaurants are always flying open their doors to any cricket team or celebrity players even those that have retired and are household names, said Anil Ricky Chaman, a TV engineer.

The new generation is attuned to football as, just like cricket in the Indian subcontinent, football also has their own stars and ‘idol worshippers’ in the UK. They snap up football magazines, calendars with their football stars emblazoned on each month and each page – cricket has little or no place, believed Puri.

Author Mervyn Maciel, ex-Kenya, living in Britain says, “Overseas Indians are very interested in watching their own country’s team play and like the West Indians, they are more interested in cricket than football. Interest in the latter sport may be among locally-born Indians whose loyalty, despite being British, would still favour their country’s team.”

The new generation in Australia enjoys both games, maintains Sudershan Gupta from Melbourne. The Australian tv covers only Australian and New Zealand matches. Most of Indians watch Indian channels to watch India matches for a few hours.

International cricket umpire, Subash Modi, reported from Nairobi that some social clubs and Indian restaurants had joyful celebrations after India convincingly won against arch rivals Pakistan. As most Indians watched that match on TV, the predominately Indian suburb of Parklands was very quiet without any traffic. The local print and electronic media covered the match extensively, especially ‘Daily Nation’ had excellent coverage.

The World Cup, especially the fixtures featuring India and Pakistan seem to generate a lot of frenzied support from Indian diaspora due to deep rooted rivalry.

Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi

* Published in print edition on 28 June 2019

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