The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi lit up on Tuesday evening for Dehli Dynamos’ first home match, as part of the Indian Super League. The match between the Delhi Dynamos and Pune City FC provided the first goalless stalemate of the tournament but it wasn't without its fair share of excitement. Fireworks constantly went off and the very catchy Let’s Football theme song played every ten minutes or so.

The Indian Super League is the brainchild of Nita Ambani, wife of Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries and the All India Football Federation. It is a ten-week tournament consisting of eight franchises from all around India. It’s been modelled on Indian cricket's Indian Premier League and is a league format with each team playing the other twice on a home and away basis. The top four qualify for the semi-finals and then the final in December.

The Delhi Dynamos coach, Harm van Veldhoven, a veteran Dutch-Belgian football player and manager, had irked the crowd when Alessandro Del Piero, Italian football and World Cup 2006 winner, the most expensive player in the ISL, didn’t make the starting line-up. Instead he came on in the 37th minute to replace the Danish player, Martin Skuobo, to a thumping cheer from the crowd. Seemed like the only moment they really cared about.

The Indians couldn't match up to the foreigners and even though players like Del Piero and David Trezeguet made careless mistakes, they were miles ahead in their performance on the field. The India players were presented with lots of opportunities but most either failed to take a shot out of fear or missed the goal by a huge margin. There was a weak shot in the end that got past the goalkeeper but the post ensured that this would be the first goalless draw of the tournament.

The crowd

An hour before the match began, fans were thronging the stadium, but the crawling Delhi traffic made sure many would be late. As the national anthem was played, the stadium was barely half full.

As the match went on, the crowd grew larger in numbers but it was nowhere near a capacity crowd of 60,000 that was being touted. The top tier of the stadium was kept empty due to security reasons and even the blue bucket seats below it were only partially full. “They needed to build the hype, so they said they were sold out,” said Ritwik Sarkar, a student of Delhi University who was at the match. "It works for the opening game to get numbers in and hype it up. Can’t do this for the second game."

Sitting in one of the corporate box, not a a single Delhi Dynamos t-shirt could be spotted. Instead, one could see children wearing jerseys of famous footballers from European leagues like Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry. Chants of "Delhi Delhi" were interspersed with cheers of "Telangana Telangana" and even "Jaipur Jaipur", even though the latter two are nowhere close to having ISL teams.

While the action was happening on the field, the crowd looked like a group of playful children on an outing. It was a family out at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Lots of disinterested old folks bringing their younger ones to something they believe they would find interesting. There were a host of aunties taking selfies to send their friends.

Odd choice

The venue was an odd choice. Yes, it was renovated and modernised in 2010 for the Commonwealth games. The problem with the stadium is that it includes a track around the ground. Therefore the fans were far removed from the action and there was no clear cut angle from where you could see the playing field uninterrupted. Journalist Shekhar Gupta, among others, was unhappy with the choice.



Here is a picture that shows just how removed the fans were from the action on Tuesday evening.

“I didn't come here for a 0-0 draw,” proclaimed a youngster as he walked out of the stadium well before the end of the match. “I  have not paid Rs 3,000 to see this kind of performance,” said another.

As the match came to an end, tennis star Sania Mirza and Bollywood actress Lisa Hayden came on the field for a few penalty kicks. By that time the stadium had emptied out. Not even they could liven up the spirits of the disheartened fans who came to see the promise of goals.