As the Indian Football awards sponsored by ‘Black Dog’ were to be held at the Bombay Gymkhana grounds in Mumbai, me and my photographer colleague, Alvis Perrera were lucky enough to have got a couple of passes to attend the event.
On reaching the Gymkhana entrance, I found out that a friendly football game between a team of celebrities and former India players was in progress at the Gymkhana grounds. Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chettri strolled in at the Gymkhana lobby after the match followed by a few more India internationals like Climax Lawrence and goalkeeper Subrata Paul.
By the time the main event started at 8pm, me and Alvis were busy hunting for seats to sit down and finally found one at the end of the row. Henry Menezes, the CEO of the Western India Football Association walked in with Bhutia and escorted him to the seats reserved for VIP’s.
As guest’s settled down, in walked Bollywood star Abhishek Bachhan , who was hounded by reporters for bytes! Drinks flowed around freely for the guests and a giant screen beamed images of some glorious moments in Indian football. So as the lights went off, the event started sharp at 8, compered by popular sports presenter, Mayanti Langer.
As singers, Sandeep and DJ Sanjeev entertained the guests with a great musical performance on stage, actor Dino Morea walked in late and was escorted to the VIP seats. Later, Abhishek Bachhan had the audience in splits with his funny imitations of trying to sing on stage, as he also praised Bhaichung for his wonderful work to raise the profile of football in India. Bhaichung was named as chairman of the technical committee for the Indian Football Association and the ‘All India Football Federation’ chief, Praful Patel also announced the inclusion of 4 more teams in next season’s I-League.
Finally on came the awards ceremony, and it was Abhishek who presented the respective trophies to the winners. Mumbai FC’s Zohib Amiri and Palian Arrows’ Alwyn George won the ‘Fans Player of the year’ and the ‘Young Player of the Year’ awards respectively, whereas Lenny Rodrigues was named as the ‘Best Indian Player of the Year’. Ranti Martins won the 'Foreign Player of the Year' award, the third successive time he has received this award. Performances by a Rapper and freestyle footballer were the highlights of the evening, keeping the guests cheering for more. Celebrity fashion designer, Mark Robinson gave the closing speech and the evening ended with dinner as well as the players posing for pictures and answering questions to journalists.
My personal best of the evening was getting the autographs of the entire player contingent, plus a picture with Subrata Paul in the end summed up an evening which I will always cherish throughout!
Article By: Vineet Varma