5OCCER 5EN5EI, along with Vishal and Karan, founded the Soccer Sense football podcast on 27 February 2013. It hasn’t achieved stupendous success but it remains one of the most satisfying things we indulge in creating each week during the football season. On its fifth anniversary, this post is an attempt to explain what our philosophy behind the podcast is and why we continue to record it five years on and counting.
It was on a warm evening in February back in 2013 when I suggested something to Vishal and Karan – “Guys, we meet practically weekend to discuss football. Why not start a podcast?” If I recall correctly, Karan immediately said ‘Yes let’s do it!’ and then waited a beat and added, ‘What’s a podcast?’ Podcasts weren’t really thing yet in India back then (even among hipsters) but for the three of us the podcast was incidental. Institutionalizing our discussions on a platform was what excited us the most. For the decade that I have known Vishal and Karan our conversations have always broadly revolved around football. From exchanging texts after goals in the Premier League (yep, WhatsApp wasn’t a thing yet, too) to a chat during breaks in class at the cafeteria*, it was classic bonding over football. But where it differed was the fact that conversations were never just about the game last night or the latest incident; invariably the arcs we’d trace would be slightly bigger picture, looking at trends, searching for parallels.
Perhaps because we had been following the game for well over a decade before we met, our experience of having known that football works in cycles allowed us this space and this awareness. So there were no knee jerk reactions, no bitterness in rivalry (incidentally Vishal is a United fan, I support Liverpool, and Karan, like Switzerland, is non aligned and follows the Serie A and Juventus instead) but deliberations of the kind that I’d like to think are the football equivalent of philosophy chatter at cafes in Vienna in the early 20th Century. Thus was born the concept of trying out a sensible football podcast. Where we wanted to be measured, yet fun. Serious, but not academic. And most crucially, we took the call of never scripting our episodes – we have always strived for each episode to be a free flowing conversation.
Until then we had seen punditry on television often chew over the same old talking points and Vishal would often come up with genuinely breakthrough observations about both tactics and strategy that the guys on TV had clearly missed. Karan had a fine grasp of football history (inherited perhaps from his grandfather who is a keen football fan) and the big picture. I was just the catalyst who put them at one place and thrust a microphone in front of them and provided the cues for them to riff off of. Our shared passion for rock music and the fact that Vishal and Karan have extensive experience of being in bands did the rest.
We have been fortunate in the last 5 years to have reached out to a not inconsiderable audience and we remain grateful to everyone who listens to us. Initially, it was just literally our moms who would. Karan’s mom would actually check in on us to make sure we were recording an episode every week. But as we have reached more and more people, our main motivation for recording an episode each week still remains that passion to talk about the game as sensibly as we can. To keep ourselves grounded as we live and die each week with each game and each twist and turns that befalls our beloved teams. That is not to discount our audience who have been incredibly kind and awesome, but to acknowledge why we sound the way we do. And what the essence of the existence of Soccer Sense is. We inhabit the spectrum between Sir Alex’s ‘Football Bloody Hell!’ And Bill Shankly’s ‘Some people say football is a matter of life and death; I assure you it is much more than that’ on one side when describing our passion for the game and the characters that inhabit its glorious theater. And on the other side of that spectrum is Claudio Ranieri’s ‘Issa football’ to remind us to not take things too seriously.
One of our favorite bands is The Doors and it is by the words of Ray Manzarek that has once said on a radio interview that we live – “You just gotta throw, throw your life away man, don’t hang on to your life so hard. You will succeed, that’s the joke of it. You make the great leap and say hell I am going for the good time. I am gonna have some fun. You go ahead and do that and you will find that you will succeed at whatever you do – whether it’s making music or making pottery or being a construction worker working with wood. You go ahead and do it, man. You’ll really enjoy it and you’ll probably succeed at it. If we take that existential leap as they call it or just make that leap and say I’ll do what I want, you automatically succeed. Maybe that’s the secret that is waiting for humanity to discover, man.“ Football is just the lens we choose to use here on this podcast to look for that secret.
Here’s to being sensible. For the next half a decade. And beyond.
*Full disclosure: I have taught these two guys as MBA students