I don’t believe in miracles, no. Yet, something phenomenal happened that made me take a pause, sit back and smile. India is a country where cricket is a religion, badminton a seasonal fad, hockey a chance to rest on our laurels and every other sport, well, is like a third-grade citizen. So much so, that when our football captain scored a hat-trick, the first for us in eight years, thereby making our way to a thunderous 5-0 victory against China in the Intercontinental Cup, no one noticed. The huge stadium comprised of a meagre 2500 people. Most people just saw this feat in the newspapers the next day with only a passing glance.
The very same captain, Mr. Sunil Chettri, tweeted a video, a home-made one at that. Nah, not a video, a heartfelt appeal. He asked his countrymen to come watch them play. His words went somewhat like –
“…Today I am not making a video for you guys. I am gonna speak and appeal to all of you who did not come. To everyone who is not a football fan, please come and watch us for two reasons. No. 1 – it’s the best game in the world and No. 2 – we play for our country. We will make sure that once you come to watch us, you will not return the same person back home.”
“To all of you who are fans of big European clubs and support European clubs with so much passion, thinking that the level is not the same. Agreed, the level is not the same, it is not even close. But with our desire and determination, we will make sure to make your time worth. To all of you who have lost hope, I request you to come and watch us in the stadiums.”
“To all of you fans that could not come or did not come due to delay, work and school, please come and watch us in the stadiums. You guys have no idea how important you are and your support is. So today I am requesting all of you to come support us on 4th, 7th and hopefully 10th June when we are playing in Mumbai. Encourage us, watch us, abuse us, criticise us, talk about the game, go back home and have discussions, make banners but please get involved.” (To watch the video click here.)
What struck a chord, along with his words, was the honesty in his voice, the integrity in his face and the humility in his eyes. And the masses responded.
Indians turned up in huge numbers to cheer the team in the next match against Kenya. Amidst a jam-packed stadium, Chettri played his hundredth game and did not disappoint. He scored two goals to a screaming, cheering audience. Post the match, a grateful Chettri said that for support like this, the team will give their lives on the field playing for their country.
The Captain called and the country answered.
It wasn’t a big deal, really. Its just a game, isn’t it? But anyone who watched Chettri’s video couldn’t scroll ahead unaffected. It was shared by one and all. People not only bought tickets for themselves but also sponsored tickets for orphanages and underprivileged children.
I think this is what they mean when they talk about the power of the common man. One man made a world of a difference. And one response from the people made a world of a difference to him and his team.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll be going to bed with a lighter heart tonight.