Game Details

Delhi sparks scenes unseen in Indian football

An emotional night at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, when India scored their first-ever World Cup goal, produced scenes of high drama. It was not a night for the faint-hearted; first, those misses in the first half. Then, as the clock ran down, India throwing bodies forward in a search for the equaliser. Then those 60 seconds of triumph and disaster. That's a lot to take in, but something about Monday night suggested we were witnessing something special.

48,184 people at an Under-17 football match

And that's more than on Day 1, when the Prime Minister was in the house and there was buzz and momentum. Today, however inflated FIFA's figures might seem, it did seem like a lot of genuine fans (one banner, across from the press box, said "Blue Pilgrim"). You can be cynical and say there were kids bussed in and government staff and people on freebie tickets killing time on a Monday evening. But 48,000 watching an Under-17 match in Delhi? For what is basically a global schools tournament? That's a whole new ball game.

The losing team being applauded off the pitch

Indian sports fans generally follow the old Queen lyric - "no time for losers". On Monday night, the Indian team lost the match but won hearts for their sheer spirit and determination. The cheering during the match may or may not have been pumped up by artificial noise but the applause at the end - entire sections standing up as the team walked off - was genuine and spontaneous. Goalkeeper Dheeraj - whose name was sounded to the rafters after one of his many spectacular saves - got a special cheer post-match for his heroics, and he reciprocated with a deep bow and folded hands. So too was coach Luis de Matos, among the last off, cheered; it's fair to say that very few in the crowd will recognize him in any other context, but today, Matos was a hero.

The coach being applauded into the press conference

It got better for Matos, when the press pack applauded him as he walked into the post-match press conference. It has happened a couple of times in cricket and it has probably happened with the charismatic BFC coach Ashley Westwood, but for journalists to applaud the coach of India's junior team is remarkable. Reality bit with the first question, though: "Will you be able to sleep tonight?".

The crowd singing 'Hum Honge Kaamyaab (We shall overcome)' at the end of the match

Any sports journalist in India will tell you that crowds basically have one chant: it's a two-note chant, first deployed with Sachin's name and then adapted for anyone whose name fit (and if it didn't, your name wasn't chanted). Ravindra Jadeja had to wait to tour England to hear NRI fans chant his name to the "Seven Nation Army" tune. Bengaluru FC fans have adapted chants from the Premier League. But today, at the end of the match, there was this magical sound, so faint it seemed unreal, coming from the stand opposite: It was the sound of several hundred voices singing "Hum honge kaamyaab", that old revolutionary hymn, better known as We Shall Overcome. It's a song that has inspired far more important movements across the world but maybe there was a message here.

You might win something with kids

It was my first World Cup match; the pessimist would say it's all downhill from here but there's a sense of optimism that, whatever happens to India in this tournament, a corner - however small - has been turned. Something has been sparked and, though there have been false dawns before, there is hope that this age of social media and money in sport will make things different. You can't win anything with kids? This one's up for debate.


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