Even The Mule Kicks

The first book to even attempt to deal with this subject in a marginally entertaining way, it reads like a set of sociological essays with bursts of schoolboy enthusiasm.
Goalless: The Story Of A Unique Footballing Nation
By Boria Majumdar By Kausik Bandyopadhyay
Viking/Penguin Pages: 312; Rs 595
If Sherlock Holmes had turned his magnifying glass on Indian football, he would have called it the dog that didn’t bark. The tangled demographics of colonial India offered every reason for soccer to have become the national sport.

It was one of the cheapest of sports, and also offered Indians the chance to compete on close to equal terms with the sahibs. Indeed, it was in soccer that Indians first beat their colonial masters way back in 1911. Elsewhere, soccer has become a mass sport for this reason.

Why didn’t it happen here? Goalless is the first book to even attempt to deal with this subject in a marginally entertaining way. As the authors rightly point out, India has a long and venerable history of soccer despite not featuring anywhere on the modern world soccer map. The game is still widely and wildly popular—although more in Eastern India and along the West Coast than in the hinterlands. It’s played everywhere and watched everywhere.

This makes the lack of the development of the game in India even more puzzling. By flipping back and forth through the pages of India’s soccer history in an accessible fashion, this book will at least raise the standard of the debates that are bound to ensue when the big boys kick off in Germany soon.

The tone of the book though varies alarmingly: it reads like a set of sociological essays with bursts of schoolboy enthusiasm. Still, it’s a reasonably fun read and definitely a good bluffer’s guide to Indian soccer.

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