Glitz, glamour and a little bit of showbusiness, these are terms normally associated with only one mainstream sport in India. But, on a pleasant Sunday evening in the Capital, it was football, and no cricket, that stole the limelight. A packed hall at a five-star hotel, Sports Minister MS Gill, Civil Aviation Minister and AIFF President Prafl Patel, AFC president Mohammad Bin Hammam and movie stars John Abraham, Rahul Bose and Nandan Sen were among the guests for the second Football Players Association of India awards.
Like similar awards held by professional leagues all over the world, the idea was for the players themselves to vote for the best among their peers, and the best mentors in the game. The evening began with Indian football's best known face, and president of the FPAI, Bhaichung Bhutia who spoke about the association’s efforts to bring football into the community.
“We are very pleased that this year 90 per cent of I-League players have voted for the awards. The association is small, but we are growing and are happy that we have the support of players and of the AIFF," Bhutia said. The first person to be felicitated on the night was the young man who has perhaps had the most successful year in the sport, Sunil Chhetri. Chhetri has signed a long-term contract with the Kansas City Wizards in the USA. Defensive stalwart Deepak Mondal, a member of the national team, was the next to be honoured for becoming the first footballer to win Arjuna Award. Mohammad Rafi won the Best Indian footballer, while Odafe Okolie stole the Best Foreign Footballer’s crown.