Nita Ambani is passionate about making football a popular game in India which is praiseworthy. Cricket, beyond doubt has remained a popular game in India for a long period of time. Prior to the advent of television we used to wander near tea shops for listening to the scores on radio. When Budhi Kundaran, Farookh engineer and Salim Durrani used to hit the ball hard there used to be loud applause from the viewers. But when Pankaj Roy or ML Jaisimha were dismissed early people used to get disappointed and start dispersing. Vizzy, the English commentator then would say, “He was in a hurry to catch a bus”.
The sound of “bus” as it emerged from his lips was unique.
The fathers of Sanjay Manjrekar and Rajdeep Sardesai were sound cricketers besides Chandu Borde. When Wesley Hall used to run up for bowling, the description made by other commentators ( Vizzy could be trusted to miss an entire over during his nostalgic narrations ) was such as if we were really seeing his strides. So, cricket was popular with us from the beginning.
In the early seventies, when we were juniors at SCI and operated from Calcutta, we could witness a group of men going enthusiastically to watch “ khela” ( football match). Shyam Thapa used to be a popular player during those days. East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting were popular teams and the “ maidans” used to look lush green. After the game, you could find some of the football players and officials seated in a bar behind Metro cinema (we used to call it Chota Bristol) in spirited conversation. Strict self discipline was maintained and enforced. The “dada” in “dhoti” will ask, “kee khaben “, and we used to have whisky with soda. This was perhaps the only bar (I have not visited there for quite some years now) where you got “ adi” ( adrak pieces) in a small plate together with the drinks. We used to put these pieces in whisky and the bubbles would rise. The small dishes from outside shops were superb and cheap and if you wanted to eat more, “ Anarkali” was round the corner. Later hop in 36 tram (it still runs) and off to “Khiddirpur”. Football is a game suitable for our country. Most of us including me have weak legs and this game is ideal for body building, gaining strength and stamina. Lord Ganpati will very surely bestow riches on Nita Ambani so that her dream comes to fruition.