South Asia is not known for its passion for football, however, there are many football fans in India and Pakistan who will be eagerly following the Euro 2012 championship.
In a region where cricket is followed religiously by millions, football is probably the last thing people would want to watch. Diehard football fans in countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh might like to watch the World Cup matches but not many people are interested in an exclusively European tournament like the 2012 European Football Championship. But football commentators say things are rapidly changing in South Asia.
"The live coverage of football matches by prominent sport channels has helped it gain prominence. The entertainment factor attached to football is a reason for its increasing popularity,” Arunava Chaudhuri, a German-Indian sports analyst, told DW.
Omar Javaid, who works in an advertising firm in Karachi, is also of the view that a 90-minute football match has more appeal to youngsters who find cricket too long and too boring. Euro 2012, he says, has more fans in Pakistan than ever.
Big screens and soccer bars
"I have been waiting for this fantastic event. I am planning to setup a special LCD screen on my terrace and will have my friends come over to watch the games," Javaid told DW.
Sharad, who manages the Manchester United Café in the Indian financial capital, Mumbai, told DW that his cafe was named after the famous British football club, Manchester United.
“Our cafe has football shaped menu cards, and we are putting up players' posters and jerseys on sales. We have special offers on food and beverages for our customers to celebrate Euro 2012,” he said.
Owners of the 'Score Bar' in Mumbai said they would put up special screens to show the tournament.
Players are bigger than the teams
For some fans, football is more about the players than the national teams.
Jevitha Raman from Mumbai loves Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo. Another young Indian girl, Divya Prasad, likes to watch football as long as the games feature players from the Spanish club FC Barcelona such as Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique. For this reason, she thinks Spain is the best team participating in the Euro Cup. Other players who are hugely popular in India are England's Wayne Rooney, Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger, and the Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder.
R Ganesh, who works in an export firm in Mumbai, told DW that he would watch Euro 2012 to relish Ronaldo's skills.
"Ronaldo is a player with a lot of skills. He can change the game any moment. Another favourite of mine is Rooney. I like him for his attacking style of play, his long passes and vision while moving forward," said Ganesh.
Javaid's favorite player is Schweinsteiger, who he thinks is a great selfless player. Other popular players in India and Pakistan are Spain's Xavi, Germany's Philipp Lahm and England's John Terry.
Spain and Germany among the favorites
Among the national teams, most people think defending champion Spain has the best chance to win the cup again. Others consider Germany and the Netherlands in an equally good position to win Euro 2012. But Chaudhuri says France, Poland and Ukraine are capable of surprising everybody.
Zakaria Zubair, a football fan from Islamabad, told DW that Spain was going to win the tournament again because it was the strongest team with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona club players.
Amol Shitole, a banker in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, says he will root for Germany for their attacking style of play.
Author: Tanushree Sharma Sandhu
Editor: Shamil Shams