However there are deeper South Asian connections. Meet Jab Sidhoo, the 90-year-old football fan, who has witnessed all seasons of BC Lions
South Asian fans of BC Lions will witness something unusual and super exciting in the next game. The Lions next home game will offer a halftime Bollywood performance when they play host to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on August 30.
This is BC Lions 60th Season. The organizers wanted to celebrate it by showcasing Vancouver’s multicultural texture. “We are always looking for high energy-power-packed shows. We witnessed that energy in The Times of India Film awards. Bollywood attracts people from different background and looking at our fan base which is so multicultural, we thought a Halftime Bollywood show with Shaimak dancers was a great idea,” informed Stefan Kalenchuk, director, marketing, BC Lions.
It might be only after 60 years, the grounds of football game will recognize the ever-increasing South Asian fan base. There is one die-hard South Asian BC Lions fan who has seen the team since its inception.
Meet Jab Sidhoo, 90-year-old businessman, the season ticket holder since BC Lions first game.
Sidhoo traces his roots back to India, a country that takes pride in sports like cricket soccer or hockey. Then what attracted him to the game of football? “I came to Canada a small place in Punjab, when I was only six years old from. So I grew up mostly with Canadian values,” he said. “I became part of my high school’s Rugby Team in Kitsilano.”
From there Sidhoo got more involved with the game each passing year. Sidhoo was the first 100 people to sign up and donate to the game when Vancouver floated the idea of having its own professional football team in 1953.
Recalling the time when there was no BC Lions, he said, “In early 50s Vancouver people were hungry for professional sports. The professional teams existed in the far East and people used to travel to Montreal, Edmonton. It was at that time Vancouver sent its application for the team. And it was rejected. Later Vancouver was granted a conditional franchise on the requirements of a 15,000 seat stadium, selling 6,500 season tickets and providing guaranteed travel expenses of the visiting teams.”
Sidhoo remembers it was one of the happiest moments of his life to see Lions play their first game against Winnipeg in 1954. “The Lions team was not very strong in the beginning. But the ground echoed with cheers even when the players made the first downs. Although the team lost its first game, people were just happy being part of professional sports.”
Sidhoo explained that going to the game was a social pride. “Everyone used to come dressed up. We had our own fan clubs, lunches and post game discussions,” he said.
From first to the 60th, Sidhoo has never missed a single season of BC Lions game. “It is as much fun to watch the game when I am 90 as it was when I was 30. I feel the same excitement and energy when I go to the grounds. The aroma of the popcorn, people cheering, the sound of the national anthem – everything attracts me towards the stadium,” he says.
Sidhoo feels football is in his blood and is part of his Canadian identity. He feels it’s the energy and the competitive nature of the game that attracts youth towards this game. When it comes to South Asian youth, he feels there is lot of talent and players like David Sidoo and Bobby Singh have become role models for the South Asian youth and embrace the game.
As far as the next game goes, Sidhoo is as excited as he was for the first Lions game and looking forward to watch his favourite player Travis Lulay.
(All the questions were answered by Jab Sidhoo’s son Ravi on his behalf)
By Surbhi Bhatia