Indian Super League fan clubs host a football tournament to celebrate India's Independence Day in the United Kingdom
The 6 fan clubs participating in the tournament are SC East Bengal Fans, ATK Mohun Bagan Fans, Odisha FC Fans, Mumbai City FC Fans, FC Goa Fans and Kerala Blasters Fans in the event organized by the Bengal Heritage Foundation.
Responding to a call from Gaitri Issar Kumar, the High Commissioner of India in the UK, to bring communities together, Bengal Heritage Foundation (BHF) is organizing a community football day for the Indian diaspora and the British citizens on 22nd August, as part of the start of the celebrations for the 75th year of Indian Independence. The one-day event named as the Indian Superfans League UK (ISL UK) is inspired by the premier Indian football league – Indian Super League. The event is the first major Indian diaspora gathering post the relaxation of lockdown norms in the UK.
The 6 fan clubs participating in the tournament are SC East Bengal Fans, ATK Mohun Bagan Fans, Odisha FC Fans, Mumbai City FC Fans, FC Goa Fans and Kerala Blasters Fans. The fan clubs have been planned and organized in discussion with the ISL team owners and their active support. The team owners have shared their home jerseys for fan teams and shipped them from India. The tournament is sanctioned as a community tournament by the Football Association (FA) in England. The matches will be officiated by FA licensed referees.
In her message to the organizers and the teams, Gaitri Issar Kumar, the High Commissioner of India in the UK, noted, "The incredibly talented Indian diaspora in the UK makes an invaluable contribution in just about every sphere of human activity - particularly in academics, literature, arts, medicine, science, sports, industry, business and the socio-economic progress of the communities in which they live and work. Their contributions are widely appreciated.
It gives me great pleasure to note that the Bengal Heritage Foundation has taken the lead in bringing together the diverse communities of the Indian diaspora in the Indian Superfans League UK. It is a very appropriate way to celebrate 75 years of Indian Independence. I look forward to a day when India will proudly rejoice in being represented by Indian-origin superstar footballers globally. I congratulate the Bengal Heritage Foundation for their initiative and offer my best wishes to them and to all the participating players for the success of the tournament! May the best team win!".
Rohit Vadhwana, First Secretary (Economic, Press & Info), High Commission of India, London will join the event as the Guest of Honour along with his wife, Femida Shaikh.
"This is one of the many projects we are currently doing to expand our collaboration across Indian diaspora communities and British citizens, and what better way than football, given England's success in Euro 2020. We want to encourage more people from the Indian diaspora to take up football as a sport. There will be many more such initiatives to come up in the next 12 months, leading up to India's 75th Independence in 2022" said Sourav Niyogi, President of Bengal Heritage Foundation.
Koushik Chatterjee, Trustee of Bengal Heritage Foundation and the key organizer for the event, added, "The support and encouragement from the ISL club owners have been tremendous. I want to thank the clubs ATK Mohun Bagan, Mumbai City FC, SC East Bengal, Odisha FC, Goa FC, and Kerala Blasters for their support. I also want to thank the fan clubs East Bengal Real Power, The Juggernauts, West Coast Brigade, Manjappada, FC Goa Fan Club, and ATK Mohun Bagan Fan Club for their tremendous support and enthusiasm."
Star players from ISL like ATK Mohun Bagan's talisman striker David Williams, midfielder Bikash Jairu of SC East Bengal, winger Jerry Mawihmingthanga of Odisha FC, the fourth most-capped ISL player Harmanjot Khabra of Kerala Blasters along with Spanish coach of FC Goa Juan Ferrando Fennoll have sent inspiring messages to egg on the super fan teams. The President of Odisha FC, Raj Athwal, is traveling down to London to join the event. The date 22nd August has a huge significance for English football fans. It is on this day in 1964, the first regular football program on television, Match of the Day on BBC, was aired for the first time.
"When we approached the Indian Football clubs and their fan clubs in the UK with our idea about the ISL UK, we were not sure about how the responses would be. However, to our delight, all the teams jumped at the idea and showed huge enthusiasm. Without the positive responses from the clubs and the communities, this would not have been possible. Looking forward to more such cross-community events in the future" said Sarbartha Chakrabarti, a key organizer of this event and an IT professional based in London.
Apart from the main attraction - the football tournament on the day, BHF has also organized festive shopping and kids' entertainment making it an exciting family day event. "There will be a shopping carnival on the day and opportunity for buying exclusive products from budding entrepreneurs from across UK. This is such a great initiative by BHF for providing a platform for new entrepreneurs like me to come together and showcase our products "said Poushali Roy, a noveau entrepreneur settled in London.
The event is being followed by many across the globe. Kalyan Kar, a Kolkata based football fan, noted, "I am loving how Bengal Heritage Foundation, is igniting the passion of football among the diaspora by bringing together the overseas Indian football lovers in the United Kingdom, by organizing the Indian Super Fans League in the UK for the first time. This is the most effective way to engage the global fans and to promote the growing excitement of Indian football, which boasts of the most keenly contested Football Derby in Asia."
"The preparations are in full swing; the posters and banners are all put up and news about this tournament is shared across social media. We are getting a huge amount of response from various Indian communities across the UK and just not Bengalis, who are ready to travel from all parts of the UK to London just to see their favorite fan team play" said Joydeep Pal, key committee member of BHF and a first-generation entrepreneur.
Suranjan Som, Vice President of Bengal Heritage Foundation and a second-generation British Indian noted "Football is in the genes of Bengalis, and we want to bring the Indian diaspora in the UK together through a common love for the most followed sport in the UK – football. We look to bring in superfans from all the ISL teams in the next edition."
About Bengal Heritage Foundation
Bengal Heritage Foundation is a charity based in London, UK. BHF is focused on preserving and promoting the shared heritage of Bengal and Britain through cultural, educational, sporting and tourism avenues. BHF promotes social cohesion between the Bengali Diaspora in the UK and their British counterparts through events that champion artistic and cultural experiences gaining advantage from shared history and values. BHF aims to reach out to audiences cutting across different backgrounds and generations through rich, diverse, sustainable events and celebration of arts, culture, and sports with support from government and other ecosystem organizations.
BHF can be contacted at [email protected]