Rattus norvegicus—a common field rat—was believed the culprit behind the halftime power outage. To avoid confusion, this is not the alleged perpetrator.
Kolkata (Calcutta), India | We like the self-critical element that seems to pervade India's culture. Thus, when a rat snuck into a power substation during an 8 September World Cup qualifier with Japan—shorting out circuitry and delaying the start of the second half at 120,000-capacity Salt Lake Stadium by 30 minutes—commentators wailed. "Black Eye at Ballgame" read the headline in The Telegraph (Calcutta). In the article, All India Football Federation president Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi terms the incident the "great Bengal flop show." Aamader naak kata gechhe aajke! ("We have egg on our face!") Dasmunshi continues. By the way, India lost 4–0, having lost 7–0 in Saitama in the first leg; the side sits moribund, in third place with three points, in Asia Zone Group 3. Its victory came against Singapore, 1–0.
The lede to the Telegraph sidebar detailing the electrical failure—few particulars of which, to be honest, we understood—sounds Aesopian: "It was a tiny rat that finally felled the mighty government and made it hang its head in shame" ("Country's Pride to Stadium of Shame—Field Rat Ruins Day in Field," 9 September). Of more consequence than a rat's fatal encounter with a "bus bar" panel, however, is the sense that football in India has lost direction. A two-part BBC documentary (listen to parts 1 and 2; links open Real Player) shows that entanglements between entrenched state-based politicos and the amateur AIFF have produced stagnation. Dasmunshi, for example, serves also as India's Minister for Water Resources, demonstrating the organization's lack of independence, as well as a lack of professionalism. "We have 25 states but only two or three are doing anything with any success to develop youth," says India manager Steven Constantine (Mike Geddes, "What's Holding Back Indian Football?" BBC World Football, 30 July).
A participant in the IYSA's Street Kids program. (IYSA)
Youth football, in fact, falls under the purview of the Sports Authority of India, which does not receive FIFA monies. As a result, privately funded groups have tried to fill a void, groups such as the India Youth Soccer Association of Delhi. The association oversees an extensive youth system, with teams for boys and girls as well as a "street league" for homeless children (see Ayanjit Sen, "Indian Street Kids Given New Goal," BBC, 22 September 2003).
Throughout the discussion the question rages: which is bigger, football or cricket? From the perspective of outsiders, the answer appears to be cricket. India's success has stirred frenzy for the national team, with broadcast rights of $308 million being discussed for the upcoming India–Australia test series (Khozem Merchant, "Court to Rule in Dispute on Indian Cricket TV Coverage," Financial Times, 28 September; subscription required). Yet football has the longer tradition, with clubs, such as Mohun Bagan of Kolkata, dating their origins to the 1880s (although see Labonita Ghosh's report on the club's recent slide, "Self-Goal Club," Outlook India, 4 October). Kolkata-based East Bengal FC, too, has a distinguished tradition, highlighted in its summer tour of England—the first for an Indian professional team—and participation in a four-team tournament with first-division Leicester City (see Jaideep Mukherjee, "Pride of the East," Leicester Mercury, 30 July). East Bengal, despite the leadership of Baichung Bhutia, formerly of second-division Bury FC, finished fourth. Cricket seems better organized at all levels and has more grassroots support, but, as Global Game correspondent Pallab Muhury writes, football has a stronger competitive structure:
In cricket, guys have only one team—the Indian team—to support. But in soccer, the good club and institutional sides draw vast crowds. In soccer there are many teams . . . plus, of course, the national team. But the latter is hardly seen more than once a year on average, on TV, either cable or Doordarshan [publicly funded channel]. (personal correspondence, 24 May)
The Global Game will continue this conversation soon, with an interactive feature on the women's game in India and West Bengal, featuring reporting from Muhury.