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Indian Football: Why Khalid Jamil’s Bengaluru FC 1-1 Mumbai FC post-match comments were wrong

There are many reasons to like Khalid Jamil. That he is an ex-India international is one of them. His principled stand on not joining East Bengal and Mohun Bagan is another. What outweighs both of these is the outstanding work he has done with Mumbai FC since he took over as the manager. It’s no mean feat to work with a club that is bereft of deep pockets and a stable fan-base and get them to punch above their weight.

MORE | Bengaluru FC: A new hope for Indian Football

That said, I have been reading some of his post-match comments and they amuse me slightly more than his behavior did during the game against Bengaluru FC. What happened was pretty simple. One of his players overdid the celebrations in front of the loud West Block A crowd after scoring a goal. That led to a rather ‘hostile’ reaction which involved us chanting “B-F-C” in unison. In most international leagues, such celebrations in front of the opposition crowd are condemned. Ideally, the matter should have rested there but then Khalid decided he wasn’t willing to put it to bed yet. Then began his animated gesturing at the crowd and remonstrating with the fourth official. Predictably, the crowd had had enough and the much-discussed “We have a stadium, you have vada pav” chants began. For those of you who don’t know, vada pav is a spicy vegetarian dish created in Maharashtra (the state Mumbai is in) and famous throughout the country

The context of course was that Mumbai FC have had to play their ‘home games’ away from the Cooperage ground which has been under renovation for quite some time now. As a BFC supporter, I have to admit it is one of the most entertaining chants I have heard. By the time the game was over and the spoils had been shared, the crowd had got its money’s worth of action.

We had a few laughs over the chant after the game on social media but it was nothing out of the ordinary. If BFC supporters are finding it hard to let go of it, it’s because of Khalid’s post-match comments.

“It happens. You saw what happened. If I tell it won’t be nice (sic). The game is over and so there is nothing else to talk.

When I used to come here before I used to feel nice. They used to support good football. They were not biased before. Like this player is kaala or gora (black or white). There have been changes.” said Khalid after the game.

His references to the lack of sportsmanship is something we can live with. What we can’t live with is the passive accusation that our comments had been racist. No Khalid, as a responsible manager, it was absolutely puerile to have dropped the ‘kaala-gora’ (dark-fair in Hindi) reference in front of the media. We didn’t particularly like your antics but truth be told, we hadn’t particularly disliked you either. In fact, some of the BFC fans even silenced a spectator who was yelling out some unpalatable invectives. We may like to get under the skin of the visiting teams but closer to home, we are also determined to maintain an environment where kids and women can walk in and enjoy a game of football. When a section of the crowd started throwing bottles during the East Bengal game, it was condemned across the board by all fans. We also understand that we will often be at the receiving end of jibes from opposition fans. Such is football and we know our game, even if we may be just discovering the joys of having a successful local club to root for.

In the end, it’s Khalid Jamil who has walked away looking poorer for conjuring up things that are inaccurate. We hope he will learn to take banter in the spirit of the game. I look forward to many such hard-fought battles, Khalid. And if you have the stomach for it, I’ll even take you out for a vada-pav the next time you’re in town.

This was a guest piece by Ullas Marar. Follow him on twitter @ullasmarar

Do you think Jamil’s comments were over the top? Or was he right to be aggrieved? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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