ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Football Fandom, Nationalism, and Patriotism

The #MeriDoosriCountry Campaign

Is the act of supporting a national sports team necessarily a nationalistic endeavour? Can someone who supports the national team of another country be considered a foreigner? The #MeriDoosriCountry campaign, which promoted telecasts of the recently concluded FIFA World Cup by invoking Indian football fans’ affiliations to foreign teams, provokes several pertinent questions about the relationship between fandom and patriotism.

On 15 May 2018, about a month before the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Russia, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) launched its #MeriDoosriCountry (#MyOtherCountry) campaign. The initiative witnessed the tournament being telecast in four languages across India: English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. A few more advertisements heralding the campaign were eventually released, each revolving around the idea that the country Indian fans chose to support at the FIFA World Cup was their “other country” (SPNSportsIndia 2018a). This article attempts to problematise the campaign’s decision to equate a passion for football with patriotism, while simultaneously drawing a line between sports-related (more specifically, football-related) fandom and nationalism.

The inaugural advertisement clip for the campaign started off with the narrator saying: “Every day we see a lot of foreigners in India. But once every four years, their population increases” (SPNSportsIndia 2018a). The narrator was referring to football fans in India who root for their favourite (non-Indian) national teams during the FIFA World Cup (held on a quadrennial basis) as “foreigners.” Going by this stream of thought, only those who support the Indian football team would qualify as non-foreigners or, dare we say, Indians. The advertisement astoundingly equates fandom with citizenship at the very outset, albeit implicitly. Before discussing these assumptions, it would be a beneficial exercise to examine what exactly a fan is:

The fan is understood to be, at least implicitly, a result of celebrity—the fan is defined as a response to the star system. This means that passivity is ascribed to the fan—he or she is seen as being brought into (enthralled) existence by the modern celebrity system, via the mass media. (Jenson 1992: 10)

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Updated On : 27th Aug, 2018
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