This post is based on the theme of the excellent column by Johnny/Al on Football365.
You hear about the plastic fans from Shanghai, from Singapore and Bangalore. You know about the Premier League clubs selling scarves and jerseys in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan; and making shedloads of money out of it. You see Blackburn being owned by Indians, and QPR by a Singaporean. You toe the official line of feeling miserable that the soul of your club is lost; and that your football league is now cargo to be peddled across TV screens in Asia. And possibly, secretly, you also are happy for the money the the premier league generates out of it, and that it can attract top talent across the globe, talent which pre-EPL (and EPL is the term here, not the Premier League), would have been travelling to Italy or Spain or France.
How did it happen, this Asian miracle? Ladies and Gentlemen, I point you to the one person who’s probably had more of a hand than anyone else in making it possible. John Dykes, formerly of Essex, now of Singapore. Clear, precise, with a thorough understanding of the game and a knack for making the nuances of the game easy for the viewers, he is quite brilliant. And is a very big reason for so many people in Asia to get interested in football in the first place. And the team he has assembled is just as excellent, with Steve McMahon (who seems perennially on the verge of violent explosion after a poor Liverpool performance), Gerry Armstrong (why isn’t he seen more often?), Shebby Singh (who seems to have got better and better in front of our eyes), Jason Dasey, Paul Masefield and my favourite, Jamie Reeves. But this is not as much the quality of the commentary as much as the cultural revolution that Dykes and his band of merry men have brought about. Asia’s never been really big on football earlier, and the test was manifold – they had to get people to the TV screens by explaining the game to the first-times, keep it interesting and fun for the regular but not passionate follower so that they stay on, and yet keep it intelligent enough for the discerning or the passionate. Looking back, I think they (with Dykes as the main man), did very well indeed.
We, in this part of South-East Asia, adore your football, your clubs, your players, your managers, your grounds, your gossip and your tabloids. But in the studios, we’d rather have our own. Step forward John Dykes. Thank you for giving us the EPL.
PS: Yes, you are allowed to call us plastic, but then love has many shades, doesn’t it? Not every love story has to be Romeo and Juliet. Our love for the club we support probably isn’t exactly the Geordie boy’s and girl’s love for Newcastle, but it’s still love.