2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Fan Diary: Matador ride, being the 12th man and what not!
From going to the stadium on a matador to being the 12th man, a fan retells his personal experience of witnessing an India match for the first time.
Like every other football aficionado, I have always had a few things in my bucket list.
1. Sing the National Anthem along with the full stadium and cheer for my country
2. Experience a World Cup final live at a stadium
3. Watch the El Classico live at Nou Camp
And finally, I got an opportunity to tick one off from the list. It was almost a year back when I heard a rumour that Kolkata was going to host India vs Bangladesh in a FIFA World Cup qualifier. Eight years, I had waited eight years for this.
Although I have been a football fan (I bleed Mohun Bagan even though my entire family hails from the other side of Bengal and support East Bengal) for a good 10-12 years. I have been a regular at Kolkata derbies since 2010-11. But I had never witnessed an India match live.
So when the news was officially announced, I knew only one thing… no matter what I am not going to waste this golden opportunity. I started counting the days for the ticket sale to go live.
Finally, on the auspicious day of Panchami, the tickets for the match were released online even as most of Kolkata was busy with the festivities. For me, however, this match was a part of my Durga Puja plan. So without thinking twice, I booked 40 tickets at one go with my own money. Then, I proceeded to inform my friends that I have got the tickets and we were going for the match come October 15th.
Then came the toughest part, to wait for the matchday. Incidentally, before my first India match, I took the initiative and joined the Blue Pilgrims for the TIFO work and other activities as the twelfth man of the team. We went to airport to welcome our team, we gathered together to practice chants and what not! It was a long wait from booking tickets to matchday!
Finally, D-Day arrived. We were around 25 people going from my locality so I had booked a matador as it is a Kolkata football culture of going to the stadium together on matadors. However, usually, one matador carries fans of one particular club, either East Bengal or Mohun Bagan. As a result, when two matadors carrying opposing fans meet on the way, it is almost always followed by unspeakable abuse-hurling.
However, on Tuesday, one matador carried fans of two rival clubs and through the whole journey, everyone sang for India.
We managed to enter the stadium one hour before the match, and as I was making my way to my allotted seat, I was mesmerised with the view, the atmosphere was electrifying.
One thing I must say now…I am not new to Yuvabharati. I have witnessed full house Yuvabharati more than a few times but this time the excitement was surreal. I was happy to hear the roar of over 60,000 people but what excited me more was the fact that this was the first time there was no division within spectators. We were ONE!
From the time I entered until the last minute, there was non-stop chanting. The whole stadium was cheering at their full voice “INDIAAAAAAAA, INDIAAAAAAA". I was so happy to see a full house Yuvabharati for India's match. I still remember when our captain, Sunil Chhetri, pleaded to the fans to come and watch the games, and today I saw people pleading for a single ticket outside the stadium. That is my Kolkata.
The most beautiful moment was when the tifos were unfurled and the tri-colour mosaic was held up high. It was time for our National anthem to be played. With 60,000 people singing "JANA GANA MANA”, the experience… it was out of the world. I just can't express this feeling, literally I had goosebumps, am sure everyone had felt the same.
Then the match started. Though team India didn’t live up to the expectation but the fans never stopped cheering. All the spectators together played the role of twelfth man properly and did not stop shouting at the top of their voice even India had conceded the goal.
And when around 89th minute Adil Khan scored all of us were on our feet and dancing like anything. Do you know who I hugged first when Adil scored? My best friend, who is an ardent East Bengal fan, who always sits in the opposite gallery in Yuvabharati. That was a moment to remember. Really, blue is the colour of unity.
Of course, a win would surely multiply this joy many times but it’s okay, I am happy to see that the fans are getting behind Indian Football, that’s the 1st step.
Yes, the 2022 World Cup dream is almost over, but we are with the Blue Tigers. We have some real young talents. A midfield of Amarjit Kiyam, Anirudh Thapa and Sahal is what I am eager to watch.
In a nutshell, it was a once in a lifetime experience. I will cherish every moment of the match forever as the Bengali saying goes, “Aha, ki dekhilam, jonmojonmantor eo bhulibo na!” (Oh what have I seen, can never forget!)