Delhi has not been the safest of cities for those from the north-east of the country. Perhaps it never was. From the murder of Nido Taniam of Arunachal Pradesh early this year, to the recent attack on Nagaland youngsters in neighbouring Gurgaon, most crimes, if not all, had a good dose of racial overtones to it.
So in hindsight, the goalless draw played out by Delhi Dynamos and NorthEast United at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was god sent.
For the city’s sizeable number of students from north-eastern states like Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi’s ugly side of prejudice is intimidating. There are reports that, with all the hate crimes, youngsters from the north-east states think twice before venturing out at night. But on Wednesday, they were out there in the stands in large numbers.
As ISL’s only club from the north-east faced the hosts, they were vociferous in their support for NorthEast without fear or worries. “It was great. The atmosphere was good… it was surprising,” said a youngster wearing NorthEast colours.
To see them at the stadium, proudly supporting the visiting team in a late evening game and often even booing the home side, was something Delhi Dynamos might not have bargained for. It was difficult to guess who the hosts were.
A Brazilian battle
The other interesting aspect of Wednesday’s game was that it featured two young Brazilians. While 22-year-old Guilherme Felipe de Castro started the match, Dynamos’ Gustavo Marmentini dos Santos — who scored a sensational goal at the venue against Chennaiyin FC a few days back — had to wait till the early part of the second-half to make his presence felt, when he replaced captain Alessandro del Piero.
The two are among the five Atletico Paranaense players who are in the two-month league on loan. That de Castro started the match only shows that the central midfielder has made a few more steps in the right direction than his 20-year-old friend. Though de Castro may not be a familiar name with the Indian fans of the Selecao, he is not a pushover. The midfielder has featured for the national side at the Under-17 World Cup a few years back. Then, Neymar was alongside him on pitch.
“The World Cup was an amazing experience. For being as young as I was, I learnt a lot and developed from my games there as a player. Neymar is one of the best players, he is an idol for a lot of boys today. It was great to play alongside him,” de Castro had told HT, in a mail, a day before the match.
That neither of the two Brazilians had the upper hand on Wednesday, would ensure the late night banter between the two over SMSes would be an open contest.