ISL: Juggernauts a fan club no less than their own family for Odisha FC
In the last few years, Odisha has grown to become and become a Sporting powerhouse. In 2019 they had their own football club, and how could have the fan culture be left behind?
The new era of Indian Sports is upon us, and Odisha has been one of the states that are leading the charge to make sure that India attempts to reach their true sporting potential. The state not only hosted the Hockey World cup in recent times but has helped the growth of Olympic and Paralympic sports.
When the approach was so global, how could the global game be so behind? The Delhi-based club Delhi Dynamos shifted their base from the national capital to the Temple City in 2019 with the idea of cutting costs and helping the sport grow in the state. The Dynamos shifted their base, identity, and everything to Odisha, and like a phoenix from the ashes, Odisha FC was born.
The club finished 6th in their debut season, but the broader picture was Odisha had a club of their own in Odisha FC. There was an air about the club, and the people started coming to the Kalinga Stadium to watch their own team play, perform, fight and entertain them on the pitch.
Kalinga land had their own team, how could fans be far behind? A sudden realization over a champions league match between two friends who supported rival teams gave them the belief that the plan for their own team was on, and an Indian football home team will unite them over the game, where European football divided them. This is how Juggernauts were born, the fan club of Odisha FC. The name is derived from Jagannātha i.e. the "world-lord", combining jagata ("world") and natha ("lord"). Juggernaut is also defined as a large powerful force or organization that cannot be stopped, and as a fan club, they want to be the largest supporter group whose voices cannot be stopped. A long way ahead, but the start is what matters.
The Kalinga Warriors played their first three home matches at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune, and the wait for their heroes to play at home united thousands together. The Christmas present arrived two days later for the people of Odisha, as they beat Jamshedpur FC 2-1 in the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, and thus the first home game at their 'own' home was done.
The Juggernauts not only support the club and the players on the pitch, but they organize various events to unite more people and help society grow. They aim to establish their footprint on the local footballing scenario and manifesting their community social responsibilities to connect with more fans.
Juggernaut's first major activity was a 3 day camp at Ghatikia sports ground for more than 40 female footballers. The players took part actively in drills, friendly matches, and training activities. The event promoted inclusivity for women footballers, and a scope to bring more female footballers right from the grassroots of Odisha.
The fan clubs also battled against the stigma of gender discrimination and broke the barriers and voiced support of the Pride movement. Even though they received skeptical responses, it did not stop them from launching the campaign and becoming one of the first fan clubs in India to openly support the Pride campaign and work closely towards integrating sports and the LGBTQ+ community.
The 2019-20 season also saw the fans develop new chants for the club, chants that were inspired by chants of European clubs but had an Odia twist to them. The stadium was buzzing with energy, and the fans had started to show they have found a new love, maybe the right one, maybe the one that connects them with Indian football forever.
Juggernauts not only tackle social issues but also planted 100 trees on their one-year anniversary, a friendly celebration but also a wise technique to tackle climate change. They also organized Odisha's first-ever OMC Tour-de-Ekamra Cyclothon 2020-21 with the idea of promoting health and physical wellness as well as inspiring people to reduce their carbon footprints by taking up cycling as a viable means of commute. The event saw a whopping 750+ participants and is headed for a recurring cycle in the upcoming New Year.
Apart from raising social, health, and climate issues, they also organize screenings for OFC matches, and fun events to engage with the fans. Along with Odisha FC, Juggernauts organized the first CII Beach Soccer tournament in February. The city of Puri hosted the first of its kind tournament in Odisha.
The upcoming ISL season looks very promising for Odisha FC as they have assembled a squad that can definitely fight for the playoff and much more in the Indian Super League. The club will be led by new head coach Kiko Ramirez, and have added star players like Victor Mongil, Javi Hernandez, Jonathan De Jesus, and more. The club also ventured into a partnership with Premier League club Watford FC, and this also saw the Juggernauts collaborating with the largest supporters group of Watford FC - The 1881 Movement.
The last one and a half years have made us realize sports without fans are incomplete, and there is a new dawn for Odisha and their football fans. The fans make the club, and here the fans are making an impact on and off the field. The road may be long, but the club along with its fans has a lot to achieve, and hopefully, they keep doing what they do, and help football in Odisha grow, and support their team in victories and defeats. Juggernauts will not be physically present in the stadiums in Goa but their support will be felt by the fans and players all throughout the season.