Khep Khela: The Obscure Side of Indian Football!

Every dawn there are a number of developments in India's sporting background. But there is something that is always cooking behind the scenes of these outshining leagues and tournaments. This is the other side of Indian football.

Hitanshu Bhatt
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khep khela

Christopher Chizoba—perhaps a name familiar to avid football watchers in the Indian Super League (ISL), particularly those who support the Indian football club Mohun Bagan from Kolkata, West Bengal. Even if you have no clue about the player and for that matter about the developments in the league, you need not worry, as this article uncovers an obscure phenomenon of the Indian football scene that is rather new or has come to light recently and some extent money affiliated. We are talking about ‘Khep Khela’ a rather not famous form of football that makes a lot of money for some upcoming and some established footballers who don’t get a chance to play in the national team. 

Christopher Chizoba playing for Mohun Bagan (Credits: Sportskeeds)

Christopher Chizoba, the footballer from Mohun Bagan was a Khep Khela player who came to the limelight during his career in ISL some years back. You might be wondering till now, what exactly is Khep Khela? Well, if we translate the words literally ‘Khela’ means ‘playing’ in Bengali and ‘Khep’ loosely translates to ‘playing as a mercenary’ but the exact meaning of it is not known. 

Getting back to the football aficionados, especially those who are well versed with Kolkata’s football background and the plays at ‘maidans’. Maidan is a loose term for a group of football clubs in one particular place - kind of a central football district from where the majority of players start their careers. Various tournaments are organized by various high-profile groups of people in these maidans.

You may ask

“That’s a very common thing, so what is so special about these tournaments?” Well, the answer lies in the nature of the competitions organised and the purpose behind them. People are constantly seeking to gain notice for a variety of reasons. Some may be aspiring politicians, individuals wishing to flaunt their money, or in a rare few instances, true sports enthusiasts. This is especially true during the winter, festival, and election seasons as these individuals need attention and need to be in the constant eyes of the audiences and in most cases convert black money by giving away such amounts. 

Footballer Sankar Roy

The prize pool for such games is massive and the players are paid a hefty amount as well. Quality players who are ranked in the second or third grade of tournaments like ISL are picked up by these people and paid a heavy amount to play merely three to four matches in this tournament. If you are wondering let us give you a gist; “Prominent local players, like Palash, Montai, Sankar Roy, Mahesh, Suraj and Priyant Singh charge Rs.15,000 per match and play at least five per week," mentioned an article by Times of India. The fee is higher for foreign recruits - between Rs.25,000 and Rs.30,000 per match, which adds up to Rs.6 lakh a month and the prize pool for such tournaments is around Rs.10 lakhs for winners and Rs.8 lakhs for runners-up, making it slightly lesser than Rs.15 lakhs for winners and Rs.10 lakhs for runners-up in a competition like Calcutta Premier League, mentioned in the same article. 

Now, who would miss such a chance to earn at a quick speed without having much to do? On the other hand, the audiences get to see a professional-like game of football without paying much and travelling to stadiums and the organizers also get their motives sorted. This creates a win-win situation for everybody involved. 

Not really!


While the players get paid a wholesome amount of money, they have to play under harsh conditions. The grounds where these matches are played have a pathetic condition even for some static activity, let alone playing a high-adrenaline sport like football which involves a lot of movement. The players get injured and hurt themselves, sometimes making them redundant to play for their professional teams. These bruises can be fatal sometimes and there is always a chance of getting injured permanently risking their entire career. 

Since there are a lot of illegalities involved, there is a delay in payment, exploitation and involvement of gambling and other illicit activities. How much ever interesting and tempting this exploration may sound, it is merely a way for wealthy people to clear their books and stay in good pictures of the public. However, instances like these come and go but there is always a brighter side to any occurrence. In this case, these leagues sometimes give out the best of players who come out of this swamp and rise like stars in professional tournaments representing the nation. 

ISL other side of Indian football Christopher Chizoba Mohun Bagan Khep Khela player Indian Super League Kolkata’s football background maidans