Football is the most followed game in the World but what makes a sport great? What makes a game with 22 men and one ball, so special? It’s the fans, the passion, the support and the cheering that makes the game so special. Growing up in India, it was never easy being a football fan, especially considering the top clubs were all European we had to get accustomed to late night games, expensive jerseys, complicated names (e.g Sokratis Papastathopoulos, try saying that) and no sense of real belonging. But despite all the shortcomings, urban India developed a love for the game in a Cricket crazy country, football had found a place. Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool had all become household names Indians supported their Clubs with passion and intense commitment.
But where was Indian Football when this revolution was taking place? yeah, we had heard of Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and occasionally attended an ISL game, but that’s about it. Last night, when Indian Football’s biggest name, Sunil Chhetri was pleading fans to come out in support of Indian Football I felt guilty, I felt as an educated Football fan I had failed my Country. Yes, I attend the occasional Bengaluru FC match and Chant my heart out, but are we as fans of the game doing everything in our power to help Indian Football grow? I think we all know the answer, no we aren’t, NO in bold letters.
This is nothing but a small plea from me to you. Take out a little time and give me a listen. pic.twitter.com/fcOA3qPH8i
— Sunil Chhetri (@chetrisunil11) June 2, 2018
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) June 2, 2018
To watch him unabashedly, with no ego plead to the fans, I’m not gonna lie I teared up. In the video, there is a part when the Indian Captain talks about the lack of quality in Indian Football, he asks the fans to come out and criticise the team, “To all of you, who have lost hope or don’t have any hope in Indian football, we request you to come and watch us in the stadium, I mean it’s not fun to criticise and abuse on internet. Come to the stadium, do it on our face, scream at us, shout at us, abuse us, who knows one day we might change you guys, you might start cheering for us. You guys have no idea how important you guys are and how important your support is.”
Couldn’t have put in any better, “You guys have no idea how important you guys are and how important your support is”. To everyone who still isn’t convinced get this, Sunil Chhetri is third on the list of most goals scored by a player in International Football only behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. It is a matter of Pride and we’ve let them down, but all is not lost we can still come together as one and support Indian Football. Maybe we can’t make the World Cup in 4 years but with the right support and the immense talent coming through it can be a reality.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – 81 Goals
2. Lionel Messi (Arg) – 64 Goals
3. David Villa (Esp) – 59 Goals
3. Sunil Chhetri (Ind) – 59 Goals
Recently I met Mr. Sunil Chhetri while covering a BFC ‘B’ Division match and I regret not telling him, that he is an absolute Legend and Indian Football is lucky to have him. I want to tell him that we back him 100% and the next time people ask me why do you follow Indian football, two words – Sunil Chhetri third best according to stats, but best in the World for me!