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Novy Kapadia, an inspiration for football journalists in India

Jaydeep Basu, Senior Sports Writer

NEW DELHI: When I last met Novy Kapadia a couple of months back along with a former Delhi football player, he was extremely frail, couldn’t move his hands and legs and his voice was hardly audible. The Novy I knew for the last 40 years was missing, I thought.

Soon I realised how wrong I was. Novy was obviously in deep physical and mental pain – he needed assistance even to sit up in the bed. Yet, it couldn’t kill his love for football because of his keenness to keep abreast with what’s happening in the game around the world.

As we were leaving, he called me to ask in a weak voice: “Who won the bronze medal in Olympic football in Tokyo? I missed it in the newspaper.” When I said it was Mexico, he broke into a genuine smile. “Oh! They could beat the hosts! That’s brilliant.” Novy looked sincerely happy with this piece of small news.

A graduate from St Stephen’s College and a reputed professor in Delhi University, Novy knew his physical condition had turned from bad to worse. But when it came to talking about football, he forgot everything. I have been fortunate enough to come across several brilliant and gifted sports journalists in India but none among them has been as passionate of Indian football as Novy Kapadia was.

If there was one person, who truly ate and drank Indian football ever since childhood, it has to be Novy. Though not a full-time sports journalist, Novy stood tall among football writers in India because of his unfathomable knowledge and deep understanding of the game. A walking encyclopaedia of Indian football, he had been an inspiration for many football journalists over the years.

Novy was a multifaceted character and it that was his biggest strength. In football, he wore too many hats and did justice to all of them. A football player himself at the local level, he successfully ran Ashoka Club in the Delhi league for many years before handing it over to a former India player. Such deep was his technical knowledge of the game that once he was chosen the coach of Delhi under-16 team for the National championship.

At the same time, Novy was also a fine journalist – his reports in “The Telegraph” and now defunct “Sportsworld” magazine bore quality; in the 1980s he was chosen the best sports scribe of the year by a well-known multinational company. And as a commentator, both on radio and television, his voice was easily recognisable in almost every home in India – he became a legend in his lifetime.

It is most unfortunate that Novy was only 68 when he passed away as a bachelor on Thursday. He was struck by motor neurone disease in the last two years and his condition deteriorated so rapidly that even the best doctors in the city were left to look on helplessly. 

In September 2017, when Novy came out with his book, “Barefoot to Boots”, he told me about the plan to write a few more books on Indian football. That his dream has remained unfulfilled is a huge loss for Indian football too. Because it is difficult to find another person who could match Novy in the knowledge of the game in India. 

He was a keen follower of European football and travelled to cover more than half a dozen World Cups. But it could never affect his love for Indian clubs, players, coaches and officials. Those who knew Novy well were convinced about one thing – covering Indian football wasn’t a professional duty for him; he was actually serving a national cause.