What’s The Goalden Word?

We football fanatics often come across terms and phrases that we start using without knowing its meaning. We hear them on television or read them in magazines wondering what the word is all about. WTGW will endeavour to focus on such terms and their usages helping us create our very own footballpedia. If you would like to know about any such word associated with the football world, do toss in a mail at editor@goaldentimes.org

“Khep khela”-Plug and play

A peek into the world of ‘mercenary’ players who are discovered, shoot to stardom, earn a quick buck and die an equally fast natural death.

Recently, while Indian football club Mohun Bagan was having a torrid time in the  national football league in India or I-League, they got a player, Christpher Chizobe, who came and partially changed their fortunes around. As newspapers dug out information about this player who had suddenly been elevated to stardom from the bylanes of maidan (a loose term for a conglomeration of  football clubs  in one particular place – kind of a central football district) to the biggest platform to showcase his skills in Indian football, one phrase came back to the limelight – “khep khela”.


Those who are well-versed with Kolkata maidan football would have heard this phrase at some point during their lives. If one is familiar with the works of now-deceased sports journalist Moti Nandy, one would have inevitably come across this term. While “khela” in Bengali means “playing”, it is very difficult to get the exact English translation of the word “khep”. Roughly translated, it means, playing as a mercenary.

Which clubs and, in turn, which tournaments do these players play for? All year around, especially in winter, festival and election seasons, people get busy trying to get noticed for various reasons – they may be wannabe politicians or just people who want to display wealth, and in some rare cases, genuine sports lovers. They arrange sports tournaments which last a day to a week at the most. Football and cricket are usually the popular sports which have tournaments organized. Now in most cases, these are efforts in getting black money converted to white, so the prize money declared is significant. This money attracts “professional journeymen” (the term may seem like an oxymoron – but these are usually groups of people who did not / will not make it to the top tier of football or are past their prime and will have to play out their passions as also earn as much as they can in such tournaments)

Since the prizes, and hence the stakes are high, players who play at a somewhat professional level, like Christopher mentioned above, are hired for short durations – 2-3 matches at the most. Most of the players play in the second or third division or bottom ranked teams in the top division of semi-professional leagues where they don’t have much scope of showcasing their football skills and are usually severely underpaid. So chances of extra income draw them to these offers. The organizer gets a good player playing in his tournament, the audience gets to see quality football which they otherwise can’t afford, the team gets a player who can win them the jackpot and the player himself makes a quick buck. It’s a win-win situation for all.

Or so it seems. The reality is that these tournaments are often played on grounds unsuitable for any physical exercise, let alone a highly body contact game like football. Chances of injuries are high, which can make the player unavailable to his professional team, can sometimes even end his career, or in cases, even end his life (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-10/top-stories/32617705_1_football-tournament-local-football-collision). Then there are payment disputes, chances of engaging in criminal activities like gambling or betting and other risks. But in the arena whose movie equivalent will be the world of underground movies – luckless administrators, players and pimps – life goes on. Talent gets discovered, talent gets lost, and the audiences cheer on the gladiators from close quarters. It’s a different world – to some people, it is the world.