Indian football stories in videos: The best of Kalpanthu from 2019
The year 2020 promises to be interesting with India set to host the Under 17 World Cup for women. With an expanded Indian Women's League on the horizon and a clear roadmap defined for the men's leagues, there is so much to look forward to.
There was a BBC advertisement not so long ago with the caption 'You blink, you missed it'. The company was highlighting how fast they were reporting news on their platforms, but the phrase resonantes even more in December 2019, particularly with respect to Indian football, after yet another year of high-voltage action and sharp controversies.
The year began with the country performing admirably in the AFC Asian Cup and parting terms with coach Stephen Constantine. In the summer, the All India Football Federation chose Croatian World Cupper Igor Stimac as the man to lead the Indian team and towards the end of the year they came up with a distinct roadmap for the Indian Super League and the I-League. Bengaluru FC’s ISL win was fairly predictable considering their dominance in the Indian leagues for the past few years but Chennai City’s I-League winning campaign and Sethu FC’s Indian Women’s League victory would have come as a shock to many in the country who hadn't previously considered Tamil Nadu to be a possible hub for football.
Here at Kalpanthu, it has been an equally exciting 2019 – our first year of existence. We got the channel rolling with an interview of Simon Sundararaj – the last Indian to score a goal in the Olympic Games – after which we launched our first documentary on football in Vyasarpadi (North Chennai). A total of 24 videos were published on YouTube in the year as we tried to bring out stories on Indian football from across the country.
It has been a roller-coaster ride as we learned on-the-go, and we’ve got big plans for 2020 with a few exciting projects lined up. Here are five videos that (we believe) set the foundation right for Kalpanthu in 2019.
1) Vyasarpadi – Chennai’s mini Brazil
Football is on the rise in Tamil Nadu. Chennaiyin FC are the most successful team in the Indian Super League. Chennai City FC are the I-League champions. Sethu FC were the 2019 women's league winners while the state's girls team has been dominating the national championships recently.
But what goes often untold are the stories that spark these revolutions. For years North Chennai has been the hot bed for young footballers from the state. The region, despite being known as the crime hub on the metro city, continues to produce talented footballers because a few initiatives likes the STEDS football academy in Vyasarpadi (a locality in North Chennai).
The film explores the story of an NGO, formed by two local residents and former footballers, that is using the game to keep young kids away from gang wars and drug abuse in Vyasarpadi. This is a beautiful story of how a few individuals continue to defy odds and circumstances to produce world-class footballers.
2) Football Rewind: Gokulam Kerala FC's Bino George on Kerala Football
In a two-part video series, Gokulam Kerala FC’s Technical Director and Kerala Santosh trophy team coach Bino George talked about everything Kerala football. We love Bino George because he doesn’t mince his words when it comes to highlighting what needs to be done to improve Indian and Kerala football. In the first part, he focuses on his own playing career, how Thrissur became the centre for Kerala football and what made IM Vijayan the best Indian footballer of that era.
The second part of the video concentrates on the story of Gokulam Kerala FC. The Kozhikode-based football club has had phenomenal growth in recent years, shedding its ‘giant-killers’ tag to become a giant in Indian football. They won the Durand Cup in the summer this year and looks set to the challenge other top teams for the I-League trophy this season.
3) Mad About Football: Maya Murali's love for Blasters' Sandesh Jhingan
We launched the Mad About Football series with an episode on who is arguably Kerala Blasters’ biggest fan – Maya Murali. In the video, she narrates the story of how her kids taught her to love football and why she chose to get a Sandesh Jhingan tattoo on her forearm. The Manjappada – Kerala Blasters’ fan group – is supposedly the largest football fan base in the country and Murali is an integral part of their women’s wing.
4) Patan's Pride: How a village became the hub for women's football in Gujarat
Meet the ‘Patan Girls’ – A group of talented footballers who have taken the state football scene by storm. These girls from Mahadevpura in Sampra, a little village in Patan district, are the current champions of all three categories in the Inter-district (sub-junior, junior and senior) football championships and were an integral part of the Gujarat Under-17 and Under-14 sides that reached the semifinals of the National Championships in 2019.
The video focuses on the story of one man's vision led to the emergence of Patan as the hub for women's football in the state of Gujarat.
Personally, this was the most challenging video to make, with very little information available to prepare. But the difficult trip to Sampra was worth it because we could highlight how community leaders are essential for grassroots work in the country. Since the video came out, the girls have formed a football team, and are aiming to make it to the upcoming edition of the Indian Women’s League by topping the Gujarat state football league.
5) Splitscreens: Meghalaya FA CEO Arki Nongrum on Baby Leagues
The Meghalaya Baby League (2018), a pilot edition started by the Meghalaya Football Association in partnership with AIFF and Tata Trusts, was a resounding success with 12 teams participating in a seven-month-long tournament. In the video, we caught up with Arki Nongrum, CEO of the Meghalaya Football Association, to understand how they managed to pull off a full-functional Baby League in 2018-19.
Over 1,600 boys and girls registered for the inaugural season which has pushed the state federation into launching a bigger season two where the matches will not just be played in Shillong. This year’s edition will again be back by AIFF, Tata Trusts and the Meghalaya government with the Baby League becoming the foundation for a 10-year plan that hopes to unearth talented footballers such as Eugeneson Lyngdoh from the state.
The year 2020 promises to be interesting with India set to host the Under 17 World Cup for women. With an expanded Indian Women's League on the horizon and a clear roadmap defined for the men's leagues, there is so much to look forward to. We also promise to ramp up our videos and continue the tradition of highlighting stories that often go unheard.
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