Right from the opening ceremony of the second edition of Premier Futsal in Mumbai on Friday, it was clear who the crowds were there for. It would be fair to say that the game of futsal or Benny Dayal’s performance was not on the top of the agenda for them. It was the presence of the marquee players, the six legends of the football captaining the six Premier Futsal teams – Ronaldinho, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Míchel Salgado, Hernán Crespo, and Deco.
When Ronaldinho, Giggs, and Scholes walked out with their team flags, the noise from the crowd said it all. Screams of “Dinho” and “Giggsy” could be heard loud and clear, as clear as the bright red of Manchester United jerseys dotting the stands interspersed with the FC Barcelona kits. The players themselves were happy to oblige the crowd, with waves and kicks at the opening ceremony.
But the star of the show was undoubtedly was Ronaldinho.
In the vacant hour between the opening ceremony and the first match between Mumbai Warriors and Delhi Dragons, some of the players came on field to warm up. The black-and-red clad Delhi players were dribbling the ball among themselves for a few minutes, when a loud cheer went up among the crowd. Ronaldinho had just entered the arena and every time his foot even touched a ball, the crowd cheered. On his part, the Brazilian legend was more than happy to oblige the crowd: he waved to them, blew kisses, posed with his signature finger move for court-side selfies and had the crowd on his boot-tips.
This was going to be a pattern for the rest of the night: ‘Dinho would do something cool, the crowd would go mad, and he would acknowledge said madness with a cheeky grin or gig.
Then came out Ryan Giggs and there was so much noise with even kids shouting out Manchester United chants and player names, you could have almost forgotten it was a futsal match in Mumbai. That is till the customary shouts of “Ganpati Bappa Morya” and “Sachin Sachin” rang out. (Of course. You can’t have any sporting event in Mumbai without this.)
Ronaldinho went on to score all four goals in his side’s 4-3 win over defending champions Mumbai Warriors. And each goal was greeted by raucous applause from the spectators. It was a decent number for the first game of the season, enough football fans to make some noise for a game of futsal. They were here to watch the skills of their favourite players, and were treated to a bite-sized display from the legends as well as an entertaining match thanks to the likes of Rico Zulkarnain, Chanpreet Bhuvi, and Diego Costa.
Four-goal fest for fans
For the first few minutes, as all eyes were on Ronaldinho, it was Bhuvi the player marking him, that drew the eyeballs. The Mumbai player did a good job of stopping the Brazilian from getting the ball for most part, but the Delhi captain opened the scoring in just the third minute as he netted the ball with a neat pass from Leandro De Jesus’s to take his side 1-0. The crowd-pleaser then celebrated with a gig.
But Mumbai were on the attack immediately with Rico equalizing in the eight minute after a brilliant dribble and celebrated with a dab. The score was level at 1-1 at the end of the first quarter but there was enough flair to please spectators.
The second quarter saw Ronaldinho score another goal with some more deft touches and flick into the goal in the 13th minute to take his side 2-1 up. The most entertaining aspect of his goals though was watching him break the dedicated man-marking. At one point, the Delhi captain even high fived Bhuvi after a successful block. He almost scored a third but just outside the referee’s halfway whistle, so the cool solo goal got no points and plenty of boos.
But the third goal for Delhi came soon after as Ronaldinho and Edward van Gils combined to leave the goalkeeper confused. With a goal each in the first three quarters, Delhi looked the far superior side compared to the defending champs and seemed to have more vocal support as well. With two minutes to go for the third quarter, Ronaldinho scored his fourth goal again with ease and then held up four fingers to show just how much fun he was having.
But in the fourth quarter, Mumbai, and Giggs who had missed a few shots on targets, came alive. In a span of two minutes, Francini Lucas – who was impressive with his attacking game throughout – scored on a pass by Giggs and then Giggs converted a free kick to reduce the deficit to 3-4. With two minutes to go in the clock Mumbai pressed hard for the equaliser but it was Delhi who secured the win.
In the end, the best description of the match came from Delhi’s Ismail Hamdaoni. “When you have Ronaldinho in your team you don’t have to worry about much,” he said at the post-match conference.
With the marquee players around, it’s clear that Premier Futsal has a draw for the dedicated football fan base in the city. With Paul Scholes set to play on Saturday, expect more Manchester United jerseys and crowd support for the match in Mumbai.