Diwali 2020: Football could celebrate festival more to promote community spirit

Nilesh Chauhan, co-founder of Aston Villa supporters’ group Villans Together, and Shin Aujla – who works for West Bromwich Albion’s Foundation and chairs Apna Albion – discuss the festival and how football plays its part.

Monday 23 November 2020 14:44, UK.

As millions prepare to celebrate Diwali across the world, Asian football fans have spoken of its importance and how the game could play a bigger part in the festivities.

Known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is a time when families and communities come together, lighting candles and fireworks, as part of the traditionally elaborate celebrations.

However, with coronavirus restrictions in place, most of this year’s celebrations will be curtailed, leaving people potentially feeling further isolated and alone.

Nilesh Chauhan, co-founder of Villans Together, an Aston Villa supporters’ group that champions diversity and equality, believes clubs could certainly do more to make supporters feel connected during these turbulent times.

Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports News, Chauhan said: “There’s always a cultural background that everyone has got and Diwali is a part of people’s lives and it can be part of football.

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“Football can celebrate Diwali and there are major organisations that can shout out about Diwali and wish everybody a good Diwali.

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“In this current situation where we can’t be with our families we could have big organisations and big social media players shout out about it a bit more – support about it would have been great today.

“Villa always do a shout out on Diwali and on any other religious event and other clubs do and should do the same.

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  • “It’s great to see because clubs have supporters from all genders and backgrounds and to have your clubs support it means a lot.

    “Villa actually make their own personal images with an embedded Villa badge which really means something – it shows the club are really supporting you and you feel connected and people feel connected. It’s massive.”.

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    Shin Aujla, who works for West Bromwich Albion’s Foundation as well as being chair of Apna Albion, a West Bromwich Albion’s Supporters Group, agrees, but also believes it is very much dependent on the make-up of the club in question.

    “Each club will do its own celebration but it depends on the demographic of that club and what the local community is and how integrated they are,” Aujla said.

    “A lot of the football clubs have a charity arm and they are the ones that do a lot of the outreach programmes as well.

    “Certainly from a West Bromwich Albion point of view it’s a big area for Asian families, Indian families, Sikh families, Hindu families so there is a lot of work that goes on locally.”.

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    ‘Why football should be played on Diwali’

    Bournemouth defender Dinesh Gillela celebrates Diwali every year. This year, during the international break, celebrations are much more low-key because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The youngster told Sky Sports News why it is special to play football during Diwali.

    “I feel like football should still be played during Diwali. I feel like it’s a great day for Hindus and adds to the excitement.”.

    “As a footballer, say I’m celebrating Diwali on a Saturday, and I have a game on Saturday and we end up winning, obviously the excitement and the joy of winning the game is only added to the fact that it’s Diwali. And Diwali adds to that.

    “However say we do lose the game and I’m upset and I’m distraught about it, football’s a game of quick turnarounds. So Diwali speeds the process up in essence.

    “We can go home and brush over the fact that we’ve lost and put it to one side because it’s Diwali and you’re celebrating with your friends and family and you sort of forget about it.

    “I feel like football should still be carried on during Diwali and it’s a great part of what Diwali is about.”.

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    ‘This time we’ve missed out’

    Swansea midfielder Yan Dhanda says the coronavirus lockdown has changed his plans.

    “This year’s a bit different,” the former Liverpool and West Brom starlet told Sky Sports News’ Dev Trehan in one of the most revealing interviews of his career.

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    “Obviously because of the virus we can’t get together so probably just do something on Facetime, Zoom, just speak to one another and check in with one another and that’s it really.

    “Hopefully next year we can celebrate as normal, go out for food, chill, fireworks at home, stuff like that”.

    Dhanda also talked about missing out on celebrations in previous years.

    “Obviously most of the time I have training or have games, so most of the time I’m away from my family and we can’t do something big for it.

    “This year’s quite unique, we can’t do anything at all. Back home with the lockdown and they’re not allowed to travel here.

    “I think it’s just, take it for what it is and hopefully next year we can do something bigger and better because this year we’ve missed out.”.