An effort by a bunch of football enthusiasts who have a penchant towards football, created a website in 2011. Little did they know that their insights and team efforts would result in one of the best go-to sites for football analytics, articles, culture of football and many interesting facts about football. They were among the top 20 football sites in the first year of its inception among many other accolades including recognition from the publication, Guardian in 2015.
An interview with the team behind the Goalden Times (GT).
How do you gather articles for football related news especially in India which is dominated by other sports news?
Cricket is big in India. Nothing unites the nation more than cricket does. The business folks understand this and have successfully used this to their advantage. Cricket is very much a commercial game now and the game suits it to a tee. It is a discrete game, with breaks between overs opening slots where you can slide in some commercials.
Football following had historically been limited to only a few pockets in India. Football was big in Bengal and Goa. But with the advent of cable TV and regular transmission of English Premier League, La Liga and other foreign leagues the market opened up. There was opportunity for our youngsters to follow the European leagues season by season. And football being the beautiful game that it is, soon started attracting increased fan following which created the urge to know more about the clubs, their players, their legends, and their history. Internet has made it easy especially in the Facebook twitter era. You will find now many Indian youngsters fighting over Ronaldo vs Messi on Facebook – Ronaldos and Messis attract almost similar attention as Dhonis and Sachins do.
We usually thrive on untold football stories, we have a very able set of content advisors, who are very well read and are really good at finding out such stories from the pages of history. We have by now also built up a chain of friends and well-wishers, from different parts of the world, who are more than happy to share their stories and provide lead to someone they know. A dedicated team of ours also made a trip to Brazil last summer to cover the FIFA World Cup and provide exclusive stories related to the game, the Brazilian people and their culture.
We also have a vision of mentoring young football fans who aspire to write about the game and this has resulted GT being the blooding ground for a host of new authors. They are very talented and bring in lot of energy and work very closely with our content advisors to write their stories and perspectives.
So, in short, we rely on the content advisors and our network to find and build a story.
How did you or the founders think of this website?
That was back in 2011, almost four years have passed since then, some of the founder members are no longer with GT, some are. There are a bunch of newer people in the team. This is actually a good opportunity to thank everyone who had been/ are part of GT.
We had a small Facebook group, where we discussed football. It was not a big group. The flavor of the group was that everyone knew each other, their lifestyle, their families, what they did, where they worked, quite intimate for a FB group, I would say. We often met over a drink or two. Our football discussions, we found, were qualitatively much better than what we would normally get in Indian media. One day Krishnendu Sanyal (one of the youngest ones in the group) came up with the idea of a blog where we would write football. We were skeptical, because not many of us were writers or had a penchant for writing and all of us were busy with our jobs/ studies.
But we agreed. We had no idea how to start but we slowly and steadily figured out. GT’s first edition was published in Aug 2011. Since then it has been a learning curve – we did silly things, made mistakes, learnt from them, but we always ensured one thing – we did not compromise with the quality of the articles. We were so annoyed by the standard of Indian sports coverage, esp. football and how they paid little attention to facts and figures, we made it a point that we will double check, may be triple check facts before we finally published them.
We have a panel of reviewers for every article before it goes through to editing and a final scan by another set of eyes after the article is ready to publish. We did not write too many articles that would lose significance if it was not published at a particular time – we were more interested in writing ‘timeless’ articles. That way we may have lost eyeballs, but it was a conscious decision not to compromise with quality due to time pressure.
What has been the most challenging part in maintaining the website?
The greatest problem, for all blogs I guess, is when the inflow dries out. It happened to us too. But the folks here love this site like their child, they stepped forward and were happy to spend some extra time with their child. We overcame. We eventually built a better supply chain and improved our planning – All this using our limited know-how of digital publishing and by reading up ourselves.
Most of the articles are news related. Do you also plan to start a fiction related column?
Not really. You may say that majority of our articles are based on real life incidents but is there a better fiction than real life? We tried to cover stories from Sarajevo to Kiev, from the darker side of the game to the aspects of fascism in the game and how the game impacts society and people from time to time. We churn out fairy-tales from the annals of the game that are not usually covered by the mainstream media. One of our focal points has been to stay original and unconventional in our choice of articles and way of storytelling.
Having said that we do also have written some pieces that have a different flavour. Here are a couple of quick sample for you:
According to you, the future of football in India?
India is a developing country, and it has its own share of typical developing country problems – for football to do well in India, there must be good of cash inflow into the system. Football missed out on identifying the potential market in India around the 1990′s. Cricket got the majority of the wallet share. But as I said, globally football has a bigger appeal than cricket. Kids these days love to go global. FIFA is encouraging football in India, India has been named the host of 2017 U-17 World Cup. Corporate response the ISL too has been excellent. I think it is a matter of time before all this money that has started flowing in gets translated to something big in India in terms of football. Like cricket, there will probably be a share of politics, corruption and financial mismanagement but overall we think India will do better in football in years to come.
Where do you see the website heading to?
GT has got recognition from the very beginning because of our creative touch over and above the mainstream football writing and reporting. We were listed in top20footballblogs in the very first year of our inception. In the recent past GT is getting more accolades. Earlier this year Left Wing Soccer has included us in their coveted list of best 100 football blogs around the world that they will keep an eye on in 2015, a list that also got featured in Guardian. They called out GT for being original and unconventional. Another organization FUTBOL50 (powered by the BWIN group) featured us in their top 50 list of definitive guide to the best UK football blogs. Media houses have approached us to tie up with them and all these have happened because we have been consistent with the quality of our stories. These help us to keep our passion going.
From where we stand now, there are multiple opportunities and multiple directions that we can spread our wings. But for the time being, we want to keep doing what we have been doing, keep churning out original and unconventional football stories, mentoring the next generations of authors who could continue to do so.
We at GT have always proudly said that we bring to the table what needs to be told, not what is usually told. If we are able to continue doing the same, we know we are heading in the right direction.
Do you plan to add more categories to the existing ones?
On the contrary, we wish to work on our specialization only, which is to dig and find out the romance in football and bring it our readers. But romance these days is hard to find in the new, commercialised world so one day we may end up doing something new. J
We are also working on a project on football analytics where we aim to scientifically predict match outcomes, based on historical data and current realities. We did a pilot on a league, EPL, in 2013-14 season and were very successful and then in a tournament, World Cup 2014, and were quite successful as well. We wish to roll this out to other leagues and tournaments soon.
Gamblers, watch out for this
A brief bio note of the founders
Honestly, we would like to be known as a team than individuals. Collectively we are spread out in different continents, different time zones but united by the love for the beautiful game. Mostly all of us have different day jobs and we find time from our job duties to run the website. We are just happy that we are able to cater to a niche base of audience and keep motivating new authors.
Do you plan to make it print any time?
Probably not as a regular print version but some collectables in a printed book is a distinct possibility sometime in future.