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#10YearChallenge: Boom in India's football culture

#10YearChallenge: Boom in Indias football culture

Sounak Mullick

Published: 4 Feb 2019 10:22 AM GMT
We often gasped at the enormous tifos displayed by the vociferous crowd at the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, or have been awestruck when the Viking Claps lit up the 2018 FIFA World Cup after Iceland toiled for 90 minutes to snatch a point from two-time champions Argentina. Have you ever imagined such a phenomenon would occur in India, be amazed, cause these scenes are quite common nowadays in the Indian Super League and the I-League! The football capital of India is gifted with clubs like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting Club which have enjoyed a fan following for more than a century. But they have taken football to a whole new dimension. The ‘sleeping giants of world football’ was known for being keen followers of European football leagues, slowly but steadily, their habits are now influenced by the west.
Fan clubs were existent in the last decade, but there has been an increase in the number in the past few years.
Previously, the three Kolkata giants had the lion’s share of the fan following in Indian football, but a lot has changed since the Indian Super League came into existence. Bengaluru FC has set an example for everyone, with the amount of fan following acquired since it came into operation in 2014. ‘Manjappada’ is a household name nowadays, but the culture of having fan clubs started a few years back. The ‘Mohun Bagan Warriors’, ‘East Bengal Ultras’, and the ‘West Block Blues’ were the first major three fan clubs of their respective sides, it paved for many others in the future. The significant feature of the fan club is that they were not confined to a city, it spread across the entire nation.
‘Bangalore Mariners’
and ‘Mumbai Mariners’ were the earliest fan clubs based outside the team’s home city. Image result for mariners mohun bagan The I-League decisive match between Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC back in 2015 was a trendsetter for the years to come. The green and maroon brigade were backed by thousands of the travelling fans who paid a visit to Bengaluru’s Shree Kanteerava Stadium in the away tie. Mohun Bagan needed a draw to clinch their maiden I-League title, which they managed to achieve in front of the big home crowd. That’s not all folks! To give the players a grand welcome, close to a hundred thousand fans gathered at the Kolkata airport and escorted them to the club tent where the I-League trophy was displayed to the public. This was a scene which was never seen before in Indian football. With the arrival of the Indian Super League, fan clubs cropped up from each of the city-based clubs, with regular activities from the members. Influential chants, big banners, groups on social networks magnified the effect to a great extent. The groups took initiative to prepare customised T-shirts, pullovers, scarfs, the passion was for football and their favourite team was oozing out!
The Viking Claps was a recent inclusion in the stadia, re-creating an experience similar to the 2018 Russia World Cup. Calcutta Football Leagues involving the big two often saw Viking claps after the final whistle, provided the team wins the match. Smoke grenades and burning candles are also quite common these days, often creates an electrifying atmosphere inside the ground. Flashlights lit together in the stands often create an illuminating effect inside the ground, often a treat to the eyes. The first Kolkata Derby of the ongoing I-League witnessed a first-time occurred when the passionate East Bengal fans created a huge ‘tifo’ aimed at their arch-rivals. The red and gold brigade won the fixture after two and a half years, while the tifo became a huge hit. Although the message depicted was slightly vulgar, the win overshadowed every bit of it. Image result for mohun bagan vs east bengal tifo
Just after a month, Mohun Bagan prepared a counter tifo during the return leg, but unfortunately, it was not allowed inside the stadium. On the other hand, the red and gold brigade displayed yet another tifo, an emotional one which the fans can co-relate. It also grabbed huge attention on social media, the 2-0 win was icing on the cake. No wonder, the ‘Mariners’ are planning something huge when they face-off East Bengal the next time. Long live the rivalry! Dynamo ‘Ultras’ the official fan club of Delhi Dynamos FC, marked protest against the unit in a unique way earlier this season. The fans displayed a banner up-side-down from the gallery in response to the team’s dismal disappointing run of play in the Indian Super League. One of the main reasons for the new wave in Indian football may be due to the steep rise in the rankings of the national team. The viewership in football has taken a giant stride in the past few years, slowly but steadily, the football is getting its due attention in a country which worships cricket as a religion. A huge turnout was recorded during Sunil Chhetri’s 100th appearance in national colours after a heartfelt request on his social twitter handle. The chants and claps at the Mumbai Sports Complex was a moment to cherish for the ‘Blue Tigers’ and a one for the photo gallery. Image result for sunil chetri 100th cap india viking clap
The show must go on! The football revolution in the domestic circuit needs to continue India aspires to play the World Cup someday. India put up a spirited performance in the recently concluded AFC Asian Cup but failed to qualify for the knockout stages by a whisker. Football followers in the country took the social media by storm, they heaped words of praise for Sunil Chhetri and Co. This was not the case back in 2011 when they were thrashed in the continental meet, forget about social media, the viewership was itself very poor eight years back. All these factors have contributed to the revolution in Indian football, but adapting to western habits will not help if the standard of football does not increase at simultaneously. With a possible unified league on the cards in the future, hopefully, the structure will help to bring out the best local talents. The primary target will be to make a strong impact in Asia, which will be possible only if India plays against higher ranked oppositions. The ‘Blue Tigers’ next assignment is the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, which will be an uphill task even if India aspires to leapfrog the group stage hurdle.
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