Friday, January 30, 2009

Desi Tadka: How Social Networking Sites Are Helping In The Growth Of Football's Subhankar Mondal discusses how social networking sites such as Orkut and Facebook's Subhankar Mondal discusses how social networking sites such as Orkut and Facebook are adding to the popularity of football in India and elsewhere.... are adding to the popularity of football in India and elsewhere....

Like the runaway express train screaming through the tunnel, the lad goes on hitting hard his keyboard. Night is subsiding into morning but like the child who goes on reading Enid Blyton long into the night, he carries on fiercely tabbing on the keyboard.

His parents in the next room wake up and come rushing to his room, understandably annoyed at their son's impertinence to stay up so late. The mother fears that he might have resumed his long torn apart relationship with his now Spain-residing Italian boyfriend-possessing hardly studying good-for-nothing ex-girlfriend while the dad thinks he might be surfing the net for some ‘cheap entertainment’ (you know what that means, right?).

Out come the words and the thunder. And the slap. And the cane. And the newly bought Mac topples down onto the floor. The father picks it up and looks at the screen and instead of finding any picture of sensuous women doing their nutter, he discerns the unmistakable Orkut screen with football-related stuff written all over it, including the far ranging comments that have recently flocked in after Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Deportivo la Coruna.

Like a dreamy eyed romantic getting addicted to Shakespeare or a frenzied Holy Grail seeker voraciously going through each and every document containing the terms holy and grail, this lad has been hooked onto Orkut seemingly forever.

And there are hundreds, thousands and millions like him who through the social networking sites such as Orkut, Myspace and Facebook connect themselves to fellow football fanatics from around the world.

Football in India might not enjoy the mass popularity that cricket does but it is gathering momentum and doing so rapidly. Social communities such as Orkut are playing the role of a catalyst in this and football supporters from India and from around the world are coming to a single place to discuss and debate all things football.

Take for example our very own India community on Orkut. It is a community that was started in October last year and has quickly become quite popular among football fans, who range from the regular Manchester United follower to the Gunner for Life to the Chelsea mental to the cheeky lad who says that he supports a certain club in Madrid but actually fosters affection for a certain club in Verona.

The discussions range form the intellectually refined to the regular fan-rant, the words at times soaked in Shakespearean theatrics and at times picked out of the mouth of a ruffian (well, sort of).

The India community is not unique in this matter. There are several hundreds of communities devoted to clubs, national teams, players and managers. And even rivalries.

Salman Ahmed is the owner of one such popular community in Orkut. He lives in Bahrain and supports Spanish and European powerhouse Real Madrid.

Ahmed's community focuses on Real Madrid and he explains, "We are a united community and have many football fans and Real Madrid supporters. We keep our community updated with the latest news, comments and articles related to the club.

"Every member has different views about different players, coaches, clubs and the like but in our community we put all the differences aside and join to cheer the biggest club in the world.

"Not only do we have active members but we have intelligent participants who understand and read the game very well. People join communities that are active and in which they are welcomed any time. Our community has these features. I think our community has helped football fans from around the world come together."

The internet has apparently condensed the world and brought people closer. These football communities provide a platform for the average and the slightly above average (whatever that may mean) football fans to connect to one another, allow the Man United supporter in India to have a go at the Liverpool fanatic in Singapore or the Barcelona follower in Australia to fight against the Real Madrid fan in Toronto.

These social networking sites are hugely aiding in the growth of football in India as well as in places where football is still a secondary sport. In certain places, football might be big, maybe even huge, but is not really a (sporting) culture in the same way that it is a culture in Europe (or at least in most European nations) and in South America.

But the social networking sites, especially Orkut, Myspace and Facebook, are contributing to the alteration of the social contour and are trying to make football a vital component of the culture.


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