The Canadian Football League is making some history Saturday night. The B.C. Lions-Edmonton Elks game (set for a 7 p.m. ET kickoff) will become the first-ever CFL game to be broadcast in the Punjabi language, with that broadcast originating from My Radio 580 AM in Edmonton (which will carry it nationally online as well) and syndicated on Sher-E-Punjab Radio AM 600 in the Vancouver area.
The game will be called by Harpreet Pandher and Taqdeer Thindal, known for their work on some of the CBC/Sportsnet Hockey Night In Canada: Punjabi Edition broadcasts over the years. It follows the Elks’ groundbreaking move last year of teaming with Windspeaker Media for the first-ever Cree-language broadcast of a CFL game.
We're making broadcast history (again)!
This time we've teamed up with My Radio 580 AM for the first Punjabi football broadcast.
Tune in Saturday, July 29 when we take on the @BCLions.
— Edmonton Elks (@GoElks) July 25, 2023
Here’s more on that from an Elks’ release:
“We’re once again excited to be making history, this time with the first professional football game broadcast in Punjabi,” said Elks president and CEO Victor Cui. “July 29th will be another example of how we’re working as a Club to make football a welcoming place for all fans, including through the comfort of hearing the game in their first language.”
“We couldn’t think of a better matchup for our Punjabi broadcast, as we hope the broadcast is also enjoyed by the large Punjabi community in B.C.”
…“I’m very excited to be calling a CFL game in Punjabi – the first in pro football history.” said Pandher. “Much like the Elks’ Cree broadcast last year, this one will be successful and I know Punjabis will embrace it. We’ve had around a dozen South Asian players play in the CFL, and this broadcast is a great way to draw new fans in and grow the game with the community.”
“I’m honoured and humbled to be a part of the first CFL broadcast in Punjabi. This will be a historic moment for Canada connecting a game that is a part of Canadian roots with a growing South Asian community that is so passionate about Canadian sports,” said Thindal. “For me personally, growing up in greater Vancouver and watching the CFL throughout my childhood, this is a special day that I will forever cherish.”
And here’s a pre-game message from Pandher and Thindal Friday, including them talking about some of the terminology they’re planning to use:
A message from @HarpPandher & @TaqdeerThindal
Don't forget to swing by the Quarterback Club post-game for a meet and greet with the broadcasters!
⁰ #OurTeamOurCity #GoElks #CFL pic.twitter.com/7OE78kxlLw
— Edmonton Elks (@GoElks) July 29, 2023
Meanwhile, the Lions (who are owned by B.C. entrepreneur Amar Doman, whose family came to the province from India early in the 20th century) promoted this game with a video from offensive lineman Sukh Chungh, who was born in Canada to parents who had immigrated from India:
We're excited to be making history with the @GoElks this weekend as our game will be the first professional football game broadcast in Punjabi.
Richmond’s @SherEPunjab600 will carry the game locally & will also be streamed on-line!
— BC LIONS (@BCLions) July 26, 2023
“Hi, I’m Sukh Chungh with the B.C. Lions. We are excited to be making history this weekend as our game with the Edmonton Elks is the first game broadcast in Punjabi. Our Punjabi community in Canada is nearly one million people. We are proud to make our game more inclusive to everyone. If you’re in B.C., you can listen to the game on AM 600 or online. Go Lions Go!”
A lot has been written over the years about the CFL’s need to make inroads in immigrant communities and younger demographics, and this is certainly a positive step along those lines. And it’s cool to see further support for multilingual broadcasts. The selected Punjabi hockey broadcasts have gone very well over the years, and even drawn international attention, and last year’s Cree CFL broadcast was a great step. And more and more North American and international sports organizations are getting on board with broadcasts in languages other than English, which have excellent potential to reach new and underserved audiences of fans. We’ll see how this one goes for the Elks and Lions.