An Indian Voice for Football
Jisha Subin Jagdish
Monday, April 10, 2017
An Indian football commentator who revolutionized regional language commentary with a unique record of giving commentary for 154 matches in Indian Super League, 22 years of experience in sports journalism, an eminent inspirational speaker, that is Mr. Shaiju Damodaran and we IIK team were lucky to have a chit chat with him on 13th Mar 2017 during his one week visit to Kuwait. He is the first to have initiated Malayalam commentary in the world of Indian football. His commentary bears tales that delve far deeper than a simple narration of the game. Each detail has a place in his commentary including the history of the player, stadium, or even the minute details of the ball itself.
Jisha Subin Jagdish: Basically, you are a journalist. How did you start your career as a commentator?
Shaiju Damodaran: I have been in Malayalam Media, specialized in sports journalism for the last 22 years, 20 years in Mathrubhumi and currently with Mangalam TV news channel as Sports special correspondent. My first commentary for a visual media was during the Celebrity Cricket League (CCL) in 2013 for Asianet. That was a gateway to Indian Super League (ISL) where I had successfully covered 154 matches. The background in sports journalism is my strength in my avatar as commentator.
JSJ: Sports Commentary was always related to English or Hindi. Malayalam commentary was something which got popularized through the name Shaiju Damodaran. How did you manage to bring out this idea and make it so popular among the viewers?
Shaiju Damodaran: Absolutely. As you said, in TV commentary was either in English or Hindi. Malayalam Commentary was popular about 35 years back in the days of radio but never in visual media. Malayalam commentary came in visual media for the first time through CCL, then ISL. It was indeed a revolution. I bow my head as I, Shaiju Damodaran became popular only due to God’s grace. I believe we must do your homework the rest is upon the almighty. I am glad that I could be a part of that revolution in sports.
My fans are the ones who created the Shaiju Damodaran you see. Fans are the one who criticize and encourage us and they are the ones behind my growth at this level. Am eternally grateful to them.
The credit of regionalizing a sport item and marketing it goes to Star India Limited who made Malayalam commentary a reality.
JSJ: Does supporting equipment have a role in commentary?
Shaiju Damodaran: The role of supporting equipment is limited to equalizers and amplifiers. A commentary purely depends on the energy level and voice modulation of the commentator. Increase and decrease in his voice and pitch while delivering the commentary is what attracts the football lovers.
JSJ: Commentary should be interesting as well otherwise people may lose interest. How you manage to make it interesting?
Shaiju Damodaran: It is the responsibility of the commentator to attract and hold people in the game. 60% viewers of ISL in Asianet are house wives and children. Men are hard core football lovers and will watch the match in any case. ISL telecast during evenings when usually this primetime is held by serials and cartoons. It is the commentator’s power that latches them to ISL.
Commentary in a bland form will take people’s attention away. It is a challenge for any commentator. If people will get non-commentary related information in an interesting way they will obviously sit in front of the TV watching the game.
At the same time information alone can’t attract people. I cover many areas of information delivered in an entertaining tune by bringing new background stories and current events as per the situation and aptness. I try to create an entertainment package deferring from the traditional mode of commentary.
JSJ: People can blink, but a commentator cannot. How do you manage that level of concentration and presence of mind? What is the secret?
Shaiju Damodaran: The task of identifying a player is the real challenge for a commentator as we won’t get time to read the number or name on the jersey. In commentary, we are exposed to air without editing and we are live on air while lakhs of people are watching us. This makes it even more important to have a high level of concentration. A slip of tongue in a fraction of second is enough to reverse everything. We are responsible for each word we speak.
I just need the shadow of the player to identify them. I am not doing any special practice for this, it just happens. God’s grace and luck, there is no other explanation for it.
JSJ: Commentary means you are 100% exposed, each word you speak is on the air. Do you get nervous?
How do you manage when there is delay or gaps in the games?
Shaiju Damodaran: It does not happen always, but we have to be prepared for that too. Once, the flood lights went off during one of the ISL match and the ground was dark and game was stopped for about 20 minutes and I had to continue to keep the viewers watching. We should have in depth knowledge in many areas and we should be able to talk as need arises. It should be like a backup file in your mind. Whatever be the situation, we should be equipped to talk and the show cannot and should not go silent.
JSJ: Your first love was cricket. Why did you shift to Football? Especially since India is a cricket loving country & people are more likely to shift to cricket rather than other way round?
Shaiju Damodaran: As you mentioned my first love was cricket and was office bearer for Cricket Association. Though I never played competitive football, my journalist passion was always football. Hence, it was never a switch over kind of a thing. I was always active as a Football journalist in Santhosh Trophy, National League, Nehru cup, India’s World Cup qualifying matches, Asian Cup matches, and National Football League.
JSJ: Who is your role model, on the mic as well as in life?
Shaiju Damodaran: There is only one name Harsha Bhogle. He is an Engineering degree holder who never played competitive cricket yet a very successful English commentator. He is my role model in front of the mic, but I don’t imitate him.
In life, there is no role model. JSJ: I have seen that you have attended a few football matches in Kuwait What do you feel about the Football matches in Kuwait?
Shaiju Damodaran: This is my first visit to Kuwait. I could see well-organized Football here, in fact better organized than in our home land by KEFAC (Kerala Expat Football Association Kuwait). They are so passionate about Football and they maintain the same spirit though far away from their homeland. That is what I could see during my one week stay in Kuwait. There are many football tournaments conducted in Kuwait. I congratulate all football lovers of Kuwait for their enthusiasm and spirit in maintaining the passion for football.
I also visited Sporty Asia Football Academy where they have many foreign coaches. There are plenty of Asian students including Indians.
I would like to thank Mr. Gulam Musthafa (KEFAC), Mr. Baby Noushad (KEFAC) and Mr. Najeeb (Sporty Asia) for their support during my visit. I would say, the reason for my visit to Kuwait is Mr. Rihas, an ardent sports lover.
JSJ: Now that you have been in Kuwait you would have seen that everyone is busy with jobs and office. Do you feel football is more recreational than professional here? What do you feel we should do to make the game more competitive among Indians?
Shaiju Damodaran: I never felt so. Even when I watch KEFAC match I didn’t feel it recreational. I find it very professional. Even age was not a factor.
We can make it more professional by bringing star players to Kuwait but it requires planning and funding.
JSJ: Kuwaitis are crazy on football. There are many facilities done over here for the football lovers. Do you feel that we can take some of these ideas and implement them in India?
Shaiju Damodaran: Of course, Kuwaitis are great lovers of football. There is no need to mention that specifically. The facilities over here so good we will find it difficult to replicate in India. Even school children here are playing on artificial turf. This not only improves the game but also reduces the amount of injuries. Small accident is enough to spoil a footballer’s life. Clean and neat professional facilities over here are impressive. Turf is something which I can recommend over there. I wish we will also have similar facilities over there.
JSJ: If you get an opportunity here in gulf will you be interested?
Shaiju Damodaran: Definitely. The best of my abilities that I can demonstrate is football commentary and sports journalism. If I get an opportunity anywhere, especially in Gulf, I will accept it whole heartedly.
JSJ: Do you feel that there a chance to start Gulf Super League for Indians at an international level? You have travelled in UAE, now in Kuwait, so from your experience, do you feel it is practical? Who would you suggest should take the initiative?
Shaiju Damodaran: Indeed, a very good suggestion. A Gulf Super League (GSL) associating all expatriate Football lovers in Gulf will definitely click and will be commercially viable also. We need an apex body consisting members from each GCC country and the apex body should start discussion at a base level and develop it.
JSJ: Can you share the most memorable moment as commentator for IIK viewers?
Shaiju Damodaran:I don’t have any special memorable moments. Each moment I spend for ISL commentary box is special for me.
JSJ: Your message to the Indian football lovers in Kuwait?
Shaiju Damodaran: What I could see among Footballers in Kuwait is love, togetherness, and organizing skills. Keep going with that. You can achieve new horizons for Football in Kuwait.
Like I say in ISL;
“Come on Kuwait, Lets Football, All the Very Best”.
JSJ: Finally, a brief about your family?
Shaiju Damodaran: I am settled in Kochi, Kerala. Wife Asha Akbar and children Abhinov Shaiju and Adhinov Shaiju are students of Thevakkal Vidyodaya School. Children are also into sports.
JSJ: It was a great opportunity to have you with us and I would like to thank you for sharing your football experiences for IIK viewers. Thank you.
Shaiju Damodaran: Thank you very much.
| ||Jisha Subin Jagdish is working with Independent Petroleum Group as Economic Analyst. She is a Post Graduate in Anthropology and has published research articles in this field. During her stint as a Research Assistant at Kuwait University, Jisha started contributing to various Anthropological and Sociological Journals, an exercise she continues to date. On a lighter perspective, she writes short stories, poems and plays in Malayalam and English. Her hobbies include pencil drawings and craft works.|
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