The FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 India will see a lot of firsts and one of them is the advent of a dedicated fan base for the Indian football team, the – Blue Pilgrims. An amalgamation of several club fan bases across the I-League as well as the Indian Super League, this is an altogether revolutionary initiative of sorts in Indian football.
“When I first heard that India is going to host the U-17 World Cup. I was hoping we could do something to support the team. And that idea has now come to life,” shares Waseem Ahmed of the West Block Blues.
“When I contacted with this idea to some of the top fan clubs across India, everyone welcomed it. Mariners Base Camp, Dynamos Ultras. Super Machans, East Bengal Ultras Pune’s Orange Army as well as fans from the North East and Goa and many others have joined their hands for this.”
“Like every club has its own fan base, this is purely for anyone who wishes to support team India. We would want everyone travelling to Delhi or already in Delhi to come and join us. So that we can cheer our boys together.”
When asked about their plans in Delhi he was happy to explain, “We have planned to march from the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Metro station towards the stadium itself 3 hours before kick-off, unfurling banners, create a flag mosaic and screaming our lungs out for the team. Everyone will be wearing blue, be it the national jersey or simply any clothing of that colour. We have got a good response so far with around 300 fans expected to join in.”
“Footballing fans devoid of their club loyalties and rivalries have come together for this.”
The name too shows where their loyalty lies. “We chose the name Blue Pilgrims because football in general and Indian football in particular is sacred to us. The way devotees go to Kashi, Mecca or the Vatican we will follow our national team. It’s a pilgrimage for us and it starts in Delhi,” thus clearly defining their dedication towards Indian football.
This is not the first initiative being carried out by fans in India. Previously folks in Bengaluru had organised the “Beds for Travelling Fans”, where fans going to Bengaluru to watch the Senior National Team would get accommodation at the houses of local fans.
“Travelling and especially accommodation could be costly for some. So we ensured that those coming to support Team India would find a place to sleep and rest," added Waseem.
With high chances of the Senior National Team booking a place at the Asian Cup 2019 in UAE, the group wants to continue this concept well past the U-17 World Cup. “We want to build a travelling fans culture in Indian football. Club teams have had their own set of travelling fans but the Senior National Team deserve their own support as well. Be it India or abroad, whenever and wherever India plays, we want to be there.”
“We need a lot of support and I pray that all footballing fans to join us in this movement. Be it at the stadiums or homes,” as he appeals towards fellow Indian footballing fans to join in chanting ‘India! India! India! India!’