The Lions are all set to move out from their traditional home in search of greener pastures.
The news which was looming like a shadow over football fans in New Delhi for quite some time became a reality from a rumour. It was confirmed by Khel Now earlier that the Indian Super League outfit, Delhi Dynamos will be shifting their base from New Delhi to all the way in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha. From the next season, the outfit will play their home games at the Kalinga Stadium, instead of the reputed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, and will most likely change their name in accordance of the city the play out of.
This comes as not only a setback but a death knell for football in general in the capital city. The aftermath of this move means Delhi will not be part of any mainstream football, with no representation in either the I-League or the Indian Super League. There have been various factors held responsible for this move, with economic factors and failure to maintain a sustained attendance for home games over the course of the season touted as the main ones.
It is understood that the owners of the club considered various other venues within Delhi, but the agreement was agreed eventually with the Government of Odisha. The Kalinga stadium was being used by AIFF’s developmental side, Indian Arrows for the I-League. It remains to be seen if the Arrows will be relocated to a different base.
The dip in attendance was also caused due to the recent run of disappointing campaigns in the ISL, however, there is no guarantee or indication that suggests things are to improve once they have moved to Kalinga Stadium. The club will have to start from scratch with no past connection to their new home and the football fans there.
The question needs to be asked though, where does it leave the general football enthusiasts in Delhi? In simple words, the football system of the country has left the fans in the lurch and muddy waters. With it’s glitz and glamour, ISL has also brought a lot of financial pressure on the franchises who have found it hard to bear the pressure of operational expenses and failed to attract sponsors. Passion has rightly been replaced by money, as this move by the Delhi Dynamos hierarchy indicates.
The two time ISL semi-finalists are leaving behind their loyal supporters and fan-base for the temptation of operating in a different and less costly environment, following the examples of small city teams such as Jamshedpur FC. With the Lions’ potential shift to Odisha, the ramifications for the North-West part of India are that there is no representation left in Indian Super League. Meanwhile, Real Kashmir and Minerva Punjab are the only two teams left from Northern India in the I-League.
New Delhi as a city took a lot of pride in their team and on occasions, people from very different backgrounds flocked together to the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium and cheered on their players in unison. The language lines became blurry and the crowd used to motivate their team in a collective breath.
Every home game was a sort of a gathering of people belonging to different cultures and coming from various walks of life. The capital city attracts people from all over India, and more dominantly from the North-East, where migration can be seen by the populace in search of better education and job opportunities. That resulted in the creation of a mixed football culture in the city and a growth in popularity of the sport among the locals. However, the young budding talents are now devoid of any opportunity to climb up the ladder and showcase their talents with no representation in any of the top league competitions.
The future for the local players and fans alike looks like a tunnel with no light at the end. One can see the remaining enthusiasm regarding the beautiful game to slowly wither away into nothingness. Fan groups like Dynamos Ultras that enjoy decent fan following are most probably staring at an uncertain future where they may not exist.
Delhi Dynamos Academy had done some impressive work to improve the game at the grassroots level in the city as well, identifying some raw talent and giving them a platform to develop. With their transfer, those initiatives will most probably cease, crippling the growth of the game and the young players in the capital.
It is highly unlikely that Delhi will see any sort of footballing action for the foreseeable future, and all of this can easily be attributed to the skewed way football is managed in the country and where it is heading. In the larger scheme of things, this move will set a dangerous precedent where any city can simply lose it’s football due to the ever-growing role money plays in the sport.
New Delhi’s stint with football has come to an abrupt end with no solution in sight.