BENGALURU : On a Sunday evening, a 15-member group stands around a garlanded football chanting a shloka. (see box). ‘Prasad’ – Thumbs up Charged, beer, nachos (and variety of dips to go along) and a Bengali sweet – is then distributed, after which the group gets ready to watch the football match.
We’re at the residence of Niladri Mazumder, president and COO of Seiko India in Whitefield, where the World Cup excitement is palpable. It’s a ritual that the group, who call themselves Foodbong FC follow before every single match. It comprises mostly of top-level corporates who have grown up worshipping the game of football, quite literally, and are now taking their love for it a notch higher.
Short of going to Russia to be part of the live celebrations which was on the cards and dropped for reasons better known to them, this group is watching the World Cup for the second time in the same style. “We make it a point to watch all the matches together, even if it sometimes means flying in from a different city or heading to work the following day with minimal sleep,” says Niladri. “Only one member, Sukanto Das (Senior VP and Head – Logistics, Hindalco Industries Limited), has been exempted this year, because he’s moved to work in Mumbai,” he adds.
The rules are clear, even as some complain that goalposts are often shifted. Every member is allocated two matches to host; two 50-inch HD television sets are prerequisites (some even managed to buy a second, which fit the criteria the night before the first match commenced); a spread comprising variety dishes (food is an integral part of this football party, afterall which pujo is complete without food?); and customised t-shirts for each member. And of course, it goes without saying that every member must know his football, otherwise like the team says you’ll be butchered.
Their loyalties lie with different teams, seven of them stand by Argentina, and a couple with Brazil. We’ve hit a sticky wicket with that question as each member is quick to defend his/her choice. Rachayita Ghosh, faculty member, Chemistry Department at TISB, quickly lets us in on an incident at the KTPO in Whitefield “The team was watching a match and got into a fight so serious, that spectators turned their attention from the game to the argument, worrying about where it would all lead,” she says.
On a serious note, as the team settles down on the sofa to watch the match (there are ‘strict rules’ on not ‘standing/pacing in front of the TV during a match’), Bikramjit Maitra, ex HR head of Infosys, points out that beneath the fun and frolic of football, the game has life and work lessons that cannot be discounted. “Collaboration is the key, just like in football. Messi and Ronaldo may be the best of players, but they are nothing without their teams,” he says, adding, “Nothing like football which teaches you to take each game as it comes and accept loses.”
Niladri has the last word as he always does, according to the group. “You can’t live on past glory. You’re as good as you’re last game. The same applies to work,” he says as they quickly head out for one smoke before the game.