Reality Kings - Inside the Very Real World of India’s Fantasy Sports Leagues

There were a lot of things vying for Aditya Mallya’s attention on that idyllic Saturday evening in Goa; the nippy September breeze, the pristine sands of the Benaulim beach, the wondrous setting sun, the perfectly chilled beer, the delicious prawn balchao, and the company of his closest friends. All the ingredients of a memorable evening were there. But, the 29-year-old’s focus was locked on a man nearly 8,000 km away - Tottenham Hotspurs forward, Harry Kane.

The footballer had been on Mallya’s mind all day - while he lazed in the pool, while he half-heartedly played cards over lunch, while driving along Goa’s winding roads to get to Benaulim. It was an odd obsession considering Mallya, an Everton F.C. fan, wasn’t even a Tottenham supporter and, more importantly, didn’t particularly care for Kane. But like Kane, Mallya was participating in a football league of his own - the Fantasy Premier League - a virtual platform run by the English Premier League that allows football fans to assemble their own teams and accumulate points based on each player’s live performance that week, all in an attempt to attain a lofty goal - to be perched atop the leaderboards.

Kane - among the most popular players this season - figures in thousands, if not millions, of fantasy teams. Just not on Mallya’s team that September. After a goalless August, Mallya had dropped the usually prolific forward from his fantasy team for a less expensive but more in-form Aguero. “I really hope he doesn’t score tonight,” he said at some point that evening. But as The Rolling Stones once said, you can’t always get what you want. Mallya checked his phone before bed that night. Final score: Tottenham Hotspurs beat West Ham united 3- 2. Kane scored. Twice.

About the Writer

Kamakshi Ayyar is a freelance journalist. She enjoys writing about sports, science, and Bombay. @kamakshi138