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TIMES OF INDIA NEWSPAPER Dated July 5th 2010

WORLD CUP MANIA SPAWNS AMATEUR FOOTBALL LEAGUES as Fans fight it out on the field 

Instead Of Watching Only On TV, Organizers Are Encouraging Young & Old To Kick A Ball Around For Real
Rachit Anand & Vineet Gill | TNN

The reverberations of the vuvuzela can be felt in every nook and corner of the world even as South Africa hosts the FIFA World Cup. Delhi too is in the grip of football fever and several football enthusiasts in the national capital have come together to host home-grown leagues. From Delhi Street Football to the Diplomatic League, there are a plethora of options for a footballer to satiate his urge to sweat it out.

Old But Not Cold, Azzuri, Red Devils and Red Indians are the names of some of the teams that participated in the Delhi Diplomatic league recently. “When this league was started in 1984, the aim of the organisers was to hold an amateur tournament between various diplomats posted in India and Indian amateur teams to encourage friendship between the expats and the Indians, and at the same time have fun,” said Aashish Khanna, the convener of the league.

“It has now become a regular feature. We hold a number of tournaments each year. The last edition saw 17 teams take part. That tournament was organised keeping in mind world cup fever,” Khanna added.

Football mania has gripped young and old alike. Delhi International Football League (DIFL) organizes a tournament once a year for children between the ages of 5 and 15. Matches are held at various school and college grounds in the city. DIFL was started in 1986 by Peggy Sood, to provide a platform to football-loving children of the expatriate community. It now boasts of more than 950 enrolled children and 60 teams ­ all managed, paid for and coached by parents of children taking part. 

Rajni Malhotra, whose 14-year-old had joined DIFL seven years ago, has had a long association with DIFL. She is now commissioner of the league. “We don’t have any professionals in the league apart from the referees. The coaches and managers of the teams are chosen from among the parents of the children,” said Malhotra. 

The Diplomatic League and the DIFL comply with FIFA rules. But some other leagues like Delhi Street Football have bent the rules to make the sport more interesting and convenient for amateurs. 

“What T20 is to cricket, Futsal or street soccer is to football,” said Aman Arora, organizer of DSF. “Our rules are different. We put a net boundary around the field. The area of the field is also smaller than the actual football ground. We plan to take this format of the sport to a different level. Next year we will be travelling to different cities to hold much bigger tournaments. This time, about 60 teams participated. Several other leagues are also coming up in the city on the lines of our tournament,” Arora added. 

One such league is the Winners’ Football League. Organized by a group of students, the league consists of five divisions based on different age-groups. “We already have corporates like Air India, ONGC and AAI ready with their teams,” said Karan Takkar, organizer of the league. “Our aim is not to find professionals but amateurs who want to enjoy the game. A team can substitute its players any number of times in the course of the game. We will also set up big screens at our venue, Roshanara Club, where live FIFA matches will be screened,” said Takkar. 

Siddharth Bhasin, of 21st Century Media, who coordinates Delhi Daredevils soccer mania, says, “Hats off to these leagues, they are able to run the show and are also able to give away prize money from the registration fees.” 

Takkar feels that with sponsors they will be able to take their league to a different level. “Football in Delhi is still in the initial stages. I hope that it will grow bigger in the near future,” said Takkar.

Rules of some home-grown football leagues are a little different from actual football rules.

The rules are bent to suit local conditions and players and to add entertainment value to the game. Organizers argue that if the format of cricket can be changed, then why not the format of football

SOCCER FEVER

Delhi Diplomatic League was established in 1984.

It primarily caters to diplomats posted in India. The league complies with the basic rules of FIFA

Delhi Street Football

transformed the sport into street football (futsal). Caters to amateur players who find futsal easier than the original sport. A net around the field does not allow the ball to go out

Delhi International Football League

Held once a year for children in the age bracket of 5-15 yrs. The league comprises 60 teams. Parents of players coach, manage and sposnsor the teams 

Winners’ Football League

The league is young and wants to help spread the fever of street football. It has put up big screens to show FIFA World Cup matches live.