How #FanBannaPadega is essential for the growth of Indian Football 

When the Indian Football Star pleaded to the country for support
When the Indian Football Star pleaded to the country for support
Yash Vardhan Darolia

Indian football has been on a rise in recent times with India surprising everyone’s expectations with their consistent performances. The popularity of the sport has also increased with the advent of the Indian Super League. The Indian Super League has not only helped India unearth talent but also brought the game closer to its fans with football becoming the third most popular sport in the country.

India being a cricket loving country, now has people who wish to go to the stadiums and watch the electrifying football games. The domestic matches in tournaments like the I-League have also witnessed a tremendous increase in the attendance for the matches. India has come a long way going up from their ranking earlier which was 173 to their current ranking of 97 in the FIFA ranking which speaks volumes of their performances over time.

Recently, the India Under-20 football team beat Argentina by 2-1 in the COTIF Tournament on the 6th of August, 2018. With these performances India which was only recognized as a country which featured in cricket, Kabaddi and Hockey have now found a new name in the world of Football.

The Indians who are often called the Sleeping Giants in Football have been performing really well in the Under 16 ranks as well where they’ve defeated teams like Iran, Jordan and also reached a new high after qualifying for the quarterfinals of the recently concluded Under-16 AFC Asia Cup 2018. The senior team also has made everyone proud with their performances. The sport which was witnessed by people mostly staying in West Bengal, North East, Goa, and Kerala was one which had reached everyone with the growing media coverage.

Recently the All India Football Federation also started a new tournament in the form of the Indian Super Cup which would comprise of 16 teams of both the Indian Super League and the I-League. The tournament witnessed a great crowd with two of the oldest clubs of the I League, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal reaching the semi-finals along with Bengaluru FC and FC Goa.

The finals saw East Bengal and Bengaluru FC taking on each other where Bengaluru prevailed to win the first Hero Super Cup by 4 – 1. A few of the reasons leading to the monumental rise of Indian football are as follows:

FIFA Under-17 World Cup, 2017

India hosted the FIFA U-17 for the first time in 2017
India hosted the FIFA U-17 for the first time in 2017

The Under 17 World Cup was the first ever FIFA tournament hosted by India. The tournament witnessed huge crowds with the attendance crossing 1.3 million. This edition of the Under 17 World Cup was also the most ever attended tournament since its inception.

The Indian team was placed with the likes of USA, Ghana, and Colombia in Group A. The first match the Indian team played was against the USA at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi. The young lads put up a spirited performance against the mighty US side going down 3 – 0 at the end of the game.

India’s second game was one every Indian will remember as India scored its first ever goal in any FIFA tournament. The goal came as an equalizer through Jeakson Singh in the 82nd minute after Columbia took the lead in the 49th minute of the game. The header from Jeakson Singh got the crowd berserk as no one could believe what just happened. The happiness was short-lived as Columbia got back into the lead the very next minute. The game ended 2 – 1 in favour of Columbia.

Coming from their brilliant display against Columbia, India faced Ghana in their final game of the World Cup. In the game against Ghana, it turned out to be a one-sided affair as Ghana beat India 4 – 0 with 3 second-half goals to bring the Indian dream to a hold.

The young Indian side received a brilliant response from the crowd and would be looking to continue their performance so that the next time they feature in the World Cup it isn’t by automatic qualification but through their performances.

The star for the Indian was their goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh. He captured the attention of many foreign clubs and was also called for the trials with a Scottish Premiership Club, Motherwell FC. His agility and reflex kept the dream alive for the Indians in the World Cup.

Banna Padega... Fan Banna Padega

Football is changing in India and they deserve fans
Football is changing in India and they deserve fans

The campaign ‘Fan Banna Padega' was launched by the Indian Super League as a promotional video for the kick-off of its 5th season.

One of the most catchy lines of the video is when the Captain of the Indian Football team, Sunil Chhetri says ‘Ek Din World Cup Khelne Ke Liye Aaj Humme Fan Banna Padega’ (To win World Cup tomorrow, we have to become fans today) - The message conveyed in the promotional video showcases the importance of the support of fans without which the dream of every Indian to see their country competing with footballing giants like Brazil, Argentina, Germany, and France in marquee worldwide footballing tournaments would be highly improbable.

This video has captured the attention of one and all with the presence of Bollywood stars and co-owners of teams in the Indian Super League like Ranbir Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan, and John Abraham. The former two-time World Cup winning captain of the Indian cricket team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni who is also the co-owner of the Chennaiyin FC is also seen in the video.

Sunil Chhetri's Tweet after the game against Kenya
Sunil Chhetri's Tweet after the game against Kenya

This campaign garners more attention as it comes after the video put up by Sunil Chhetri requesting fans to come for the matches of the Indian team stating that they would do everything possible to try and reach the level of the big European clubs. He even addresses those who do not believe in Indian football anymore asking them to come for the games and hurl them with shouts and abuses saying maybe one day they might be content with the level of Indian football.

His appeal was supported by the cricketing legend, Sachin Tendulkar, the Captain of the Indian Cricket team, Virat Kohli and India’s tennis sensation, Sania Mirza. This appeal by Chhetri led to a packed stadium in the next game his side played in the Intercontinental Cup where India blanked Kenya 3 – 0. This also marked another feather to Chhetri’s illustrious career as he played his 100th International game for India.Sunil Chettri’s Appeal to fans requesting them for their support

He applauded the fans for their support in the game by putting up a tweet thanking them and saying that his side would give everything on the pitch whenever they play. The Indian team then went on to win the Intercontinental Cup defeating Kenya 2 – 0 in the finals.

Performances of the senior side

The Indian football team after their Intercontinental Cup win.
The Indian football team after their Intercontinental Cup win.

Champions of the Intercontinental Cup 2018 – The Intercontinental Cup took place in Mumbai from the 1st to the 10th Of June, 2018. It was a quadrangle tournament featuring Kenya, New Zealand, Chinese Taipei and the hosts India.

The first game of the tournament saw India taking on Chinese Taipei. India completely dominated the game winning the game by a margin of 5 – 0. Sunil Chhetri scored a hat-trick whereas Udanta Singh and Pranoy Halder scored a goal each.

India’s second game was against Kenya which saw Sunil Chhetri play his 100th international game as he marked the same by scoring two goals. The match was evenly contested in the first game with the scores 0 – 0. The second half saw the Indians score 3 goals with 2 coming from Chhetri and 1 coming from Jeje.

India’s final group game was against New Zealand. New Zealand had quite a few new faces slotted in for the tournament and had earlier lost to Kenya in their first game by 1 – 2. India went ahead with Sunil Chhetri scoring the first goal of the game in the 47th minute. New Zealand soon equalized De Jong in the 49th minute and a late goal from John Dyer sealed the game for the Kiwis as they beat India handing them their first defeat in the tournament by 2 – 1.

India had qualified for the finals after winning their second game against Kenya. Kenya piped New Zealand with a better goal difference to take India on for the coveted Intercontinental Cup 2018. India on the back of their home support started the game off really well scoring 2 goals in the first half which proved to be enough as India won 2-0.

Both the goals came from Sunil Chhetri who ended up as the Highest Goalscorer of the tournament with 8 goals. Chhetri was also awarded the Best Player of the Tournament for his dominant display.

Qualification for the AFC Asia Cup 2019 - India qualified for the AFC Asia Cup 2019 after topping Group A in the third round of the qualifiers. The other teams present in Group A were Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, and Macau. India topped group A with 4 wins out of the 6 matches they played. Their only defeat came against Kyrgyzstan to whom they lost 1 – 2.

They had earlier defeated them 1 – 0. In the earlier group games, India had defeated Macau twice by 2 – 0 and 4 – 1. They won 1 game against Myanmar by 1 – 0 and drew their next game against Myanmar by 2 - 2.

The draw of the AFC Asia Cup 2019 was held at the Burj Khalifa in UAE. India was drawn with the hosts UAE, Bahrain, and Thailand. Out of the three teams, only UAE is ahead of India in terms of rankings on 81 whereas India is ranked 97. Both Bahrain and Thailand are on 116 and 122 respectively. A lot will be expected from the Indian side as they begin their AFC Asia Cup campaign against Thailand on the 6th of January, 2019.

Draw against China - The Indian side surprised one and all when they held the mighty Chinese in the friendly they played against the Giants at Shanghai to a 0 – 0 draw. The match saw the Chinese dominating possession and Gurpreet Singh standing as a wall between them and the Indian goal. The defence stood firm the Chinese attacks and was very well marshalled by the captain Sandesh Jhingan.

The Indians too had good chances which they couldn’t utilize whereas the Chinese led by the experienced Gao Lin hit the Indian crossbar on a number of occasions. This draw surely put out a message that Indians shouldn’t be easily put away in the AFC Asia Cup in 2019.

Performances of the Under 16 team

The Indian team after winning the 4 Nation Tournament in Serbia
The Indian team after winning the 4 Nation Tournament in Serbia

Winners of the 4 Nation Tournament in Serbia – The Indian Under-16 team won the 4 Nation Tournament held in Serbia from the 9th to the 13th of May, 2018. India beat the likes of Tajikistan and Jordan by 4-2 and 2-1 before drawing to the hosts Serbia 0 – 0.

WAFF Under-16 Championship 2018 - The Indian Under-16 team has been surprising everyone with their consistent performances against highly ranked teams. They recently took part in the 2018 WAFF Under-16 Championship which took place in Jordan. The tournament had hosts Jordan, Japan, Yemen, Iraq, and India taking part. India surpassed all expectations as they won 3 matches out of 4.

They beat hosts Jordan, Yemen, and Iraq losing out to only Japan by a scoreline of 1 – 2. The Indian side would be in high spirits after ending second in the tournament behind winners Japan.

Tri-Nation Tournament in Turkey – India took part in the tri-nation tournament in Turkey where played the Under 16 teams from Oman and Cameroon. The Indians continued with their terrific team play to win both games by 2 – 1. The Indians also played another friendly in Turkey against the Under 16 Besiktas team who they thrashed 5 -1.

AFC Under 16 Championship - The team coached by Bibiano Fernandes reached the quarterfinals of the recently concluded AFC Under 16 Championship in Malaysia. The Indian team qualified for the quarterfinals after ending second in Group C which comprised of Indonesia, Iran, Vietnam, and India. In their 3 group games, India won one game against Vietnam by 1-0 courtesy of a late goal coming from Vikram Pratap Singh. India was held by both Indonesia and Iran by 0 – 0.

India qualified for the quarterfinals of the Under 16 AFC Asia Cup after a gap of 16 years. The Indians took on South Korea in the quarterfinals. This match was anxiously watched by many as a win would get India automatic qualification for 2019 Under 17 FIFA World Cup. It wasn’t to be as South Korea who had won 3 out of their 3 games topping Group D beat India in a nail-biter by 1 – 0.

Edited by Shruti Sadbhav


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