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How big is Indian football? Ask Jason Cummings

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23rd July, 2023

When Alessandro Del Piero arrived at Kingsford Smith Airport in 2012, the marquee signing was given a hero’s welcome by Sydney FC fans, energising the A-League.

Over the weekend, that famous scene was finally outdone by a tattooed showman, his Scottish accent peppered with ocker rhetoric.

Enter Jason Cummings, the former Central Coast champion, marching through an Indian airport, having been bought by Mohun Bagan. Did you see the video?

Although the social media clip was only nine seconds long, it gave an insight into the growing fanaticism that is the Indian Super League.

Here were dozens of keen supporters, cheering at 3am, adorned in green and maroon, happily awake for their idol in the middle of the night.

“And the army was there too,” I typed into WhatsApp, providing the link to a few round-ball mates. “Literally.”

The defence force? I had to rewatch the clip again, just to be certain. Clearly these were robust men, dressed in camouflaged gear, providing protection to India’s newest rock star.


This would never happen in the A-League, I thought to myself. Not anymore. How popular is the game overseas?

For perspective, Central Coast have more than 80,000 Facebook followers. Not bad for a regional team. In comparison, Mohun Bagan have generated over 1 million.

Three weeks ago, the Mariners uploaded a thank you video to YouTube, celebrating Cummings’ success in the A-League. Nearly all of the attached comments were from Indian fans, many typing heartfelt messages, mentioning sincere “joy”.

A few of those same people expressed a nice coincidence, as the Indian club is also nicknamed the Mariners. “Don’t worry,” one reassuring fan uploaded, “he’s still a Mariner.”

Included in the Australian exodus overseas, a scan of last season’s roster shows two former Western Sydney faces, Dimitri Petratos and Brendan Hamill, who also play for Mohun Bagan.

In Australia, we celebrate nearly 20 wonderful years of the A-League. Past the Bay of Bengal, however, Mohun Bagan’s been operating since 1889, far longer than any professional club Down Under.


It’s a distinguished figure, even enviable, especially to clubs such as Western United or Macarthur.

In the long term, will Cumming’s move be value for money? His presence in India could be seen as a metaphor for growth, much like Alessandro Del Piero’s famous stay with Sydney FC.

After the Italian maestro joined the Sky Blues, patronage jumped significantly, soaring to over 18,000 (up from 11,000 the previous season).

If the Socceroo maintains his high goal ratio, anything is possible for Cummings. He was nicknamed after a canine in Scotland, and a dingo in Australia. What fresh pseudonyms await him in India?