2012 will mark the inaugural season of the Elite Football League of India (EFLI). The tournament, which is set to begin on Monday the 12th of November, will mark the first time that a professional men’s American football tournament is held in India. The tournament will feature 10 Indian teams, 1 Sri Lankan team, and 1 Bangladeshi team, and will run over a 3 month period. The tournament is filled with potential to make American football a major sport in India, but the question is; will the Indian public care enough to embrace the sport?
It sure does seem like an ambitious venture, trying to internationalize a sport that is oozing with American patriotism, so much so that it even has “American” in its name. Furthermore, the organizers are trying to bring the sport into India, a country where the overwhelming bulk of the population has absolutely no idea what the game is about. It looks like an uphill battle from the start, the Indian market being so hostile towards non-cricket sports leagues that even the Premier Hockey League, a tournament that celebrated the country’s national sport, disbanded after only four seasons of existence.
Despite these aversions, I would like to encourage the reader to look into the sport of American football and support this league. There are a few simple reasons as to why I’d like to see the EFLI flourish. Firstly, the league will help develop more athletes from India; it may even serve as a platform for Indians to get recruited by American football teams in the USA. Secondly, the league will help broaden India’s sporting industry; potentially generating more job opportunities in the field. Finally, it will help diversify India’s sporting pallet; we will be known as more than just a country filled with cricket fans.
An appropriate question to address; why should Indians start taking an interest in American football of all things? Why not something simpler like soccer? I’ll be honest, American football is by no means the easiest game to understand. It has a lot of rules that, at first glance, seem complicated. But, being the diehard American football fan that I am, I can assure you that the more you watch the sport, the more engrossed you will get.
Let me paint a picture to explain why the sport appeals to me. I see American football as one of the most strategically engaging sports in the world. The game is like chess on a playing field; it is a highly tactical battle of wits between the two teams. Every player on the field is a chess piece; each one having their unique roles and the potential to be utilized in a variety of ways. And then there is the aggression factor. What the uninformed viewer sees as acts of barbarism, I see as an exciting dimension to the game; having to execute your plan of action in a high intensity warzone. Despite the physical nature of the game; the team that is more strategically sound usually ends up winning.
Ultimately, the success of the EFLI will be determined by how effectively the league gets broadcast and advertised. I am encouraged to hear that the league will be shown on ‘Ten Sports’, a channel with an overall reach of 500 million viewers across Asia. The league has some notable investors, including the likes of Mark Wahlberg, showing that the management team is trying very hard to make this venture work. For the time being, I forward the reader to the EFLI website and recommend that they have a look at what the league is about. The league won’t start for another 7 months, which gives those of you who are interested more than enough time to learn the rules of the game.
In my eyes, the league holds a lot of promise both for India and for the sport of American football, and I wish it all the best.