I took a quick trip to Guwahati, Assam earlier in the week to meet with NorthEast United FC management and to see some of our DSK Shivajians FC players playing in the Indian Super League live. Although I was only in Guwahati for less than 24 hours, it was a productive and enjoyable experience.
The first thing I noticed when I approached Indira Gandhi Stadium to catch the 7:00pm NEUFC vs Pune City FC kick off was that there were thousands of people tailgating in the parking lot all around the venue – drinking, eating BBQed meats, listening to rock & roll music, etc… Tailgating before sports events is one of my favorite activities while in the US and it was disappointing to realize that it’s not really part of the Indian sporting culture. Guwahati completely impressed me as the NorthEast United supporters clearly knew what they were doing when it comes to preparing themselves before cheering for their beloved club.
The match itself was mediocre. NorthEast United FC and FC Pune City both have strong players and technical staff, but I feel that the format and rigorous travel schedule of the Indian Super League have just turned everyone into sore, frustrated monsters. So instead of a football game, what the thousands of supporters experienced was a handful of players and coaches releasing all of their negative emotions on a few poor referees. In the end NorthEast United FC came out of the match as 1-0 winners which made me happy given that we have a number of players from DSK Shivajians FC currently playing for the club.
What made the trip so special, though, was the fact that it turned into a mini reunion with some of my close friends and former colleagues. The Director of Football for NorthEast United is Ardeshir Jeejeebhoy who was the previous CEO of the Liverpool FC International Academy – DSK Shivajians and someone who I have known for the past 8 years. The General Manager of the club is Randeep Baruah – one of my best friends who worked with me at both Dentsu and Libero Sports. And also in Guwahati for the match was Abhishek Wakankar who heads up Grassroots Marketing for FC Pune City and used to work with both Randeep and I at Libero Sports. While we all have recently taken on new roles in Indian football, it felt great that we could be together celebrating the beautiful game in such a unique part of the country.
After the match, we all celebrated Randeep and his wife Pranami’s 6 year wedding anniversary, a wedding I attended during my first trip to Guwahati way back in 2011.
Overall, I’m really glad I made the trip out to Guwahati as the supporter culture in the city truly inspired me. Also, the mini reunion further validated my credo that it is important to be a good person to everyone you meet and work with in the industry as you never know when and where you will cross paths again.
|Attending Randeep & Pranami's wedding Guwahati in 2011|