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A look at how fans are reinvigorating Indian football

ANALYST
Feature
9.64K   //    15 Jul 2019, 15:15 IST

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Football has been dubbed as the ‘Beautiful Game’ and rightfully so. The way fans and players pull the team together in one direction is something that no other sport can match.

In India as well, the sport was extremely popular back in the 50s and 60s where the team used to compete with the best in the continent. However, the Indian team’s support saw a major decline in interest due to lack of success coupled with other sports getting recognition. Football was always followed fervently with Indians staying up late in the night to watch their favourite European club teams play or the best nations competing at the World Cup.

Lately, however, it seems like Indian football has gotten back on the radar of the fans. The advent of the Indian Super League followed by India’s rise in the FIFA rankings are a testament to the fact that the nation is progressing in the most popular sport in the world. The fans themselves have taken up the responsibility to make India great again in the world of football.

In March 2015, India were placed 173 in the FIFA rankings, which was their worst rank ever. However, right now, India find themselves at 101 – and competing in top tournaments like Asian Cup and having friendlies/competitive tournaments with big teams like Syria, Korea, etc.

The current Indian team, too, has some of the best players they have had in 30 years. The likes of Sandesh Jhingan, Udanta Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Gurpreet Singh, and other promising youngsters have given fans something to hope for.

The rise has been meteoric in the past couple of years and it isn’t just the football on the ground that has triggered it. India’s record goalscorer, Sunil Chhetri, issued a rallying cry after India’s match against Chinese Taipei in the first match of the Intercontinental Cup last year as the stadium was mostly empty.

It prompted Chhetri to personally ask the Indian football fraternity to come to the stadium and cheer for the team. After that, the stadiums were filled to the last seat as fans supported their team. The support reaped dividends as the Blue Tigers went on to win their first ever Intercontinental title.

The increase in popularity is evident in this heart-warming video made by Titan on India’s journey in the sport. It captures every essence – from the ups and downs, the overflowing support to the dark days.

You can watch the video here:

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It isn’t just the Indians who have been mesmerised with the support since Chhetri’s rallying cry. Chelsea’s upcoming star Callum Hudson-Odoi was all praises for the fans’ knowledge and passion when he was in the country during the U17 FIFA World Cup. He was glowing lyrical about the vociferous support and

“By the way, that tournament? Man … India put on a party for that World Cup,” Hudson-Odoi said in his Players Tribune article.

“You’ve never seen football like it. That World Cup had sellout crowds — like proper sellout. I’m talking 60,000 in a stadium to watch teenagers kick ball. India is amazing. They love football so much, and I hope we can run that tournament back one day for the senior teams. I scored the first goal for England in the 4–0 win over Chile in the group stage … and the noise after from the crowd?

“You’d hear the crowd just erupt and you wouldn’t be able to hear anything. Anything. My best friend out in India was Jonathan Panzo. We came up through the Chelsea youth teams together, and he’d be screaming instructions at me during games, and I’d have no idea what he’d be saying.”

With the way one of the world’s most promising youngsters was praising the support, what’s keeping you away? This is the time to support the Blue Tigers and #WatchThemRise. Afterall, if you can’t support your own country, are you really a football fan?

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