RESURGENCE OF FAN CULTURE

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The atmosphere created by East Bengal Ultras, a fan group of East Bengal besides the official fan club East Bengal The Real Power (Photo courtesy: East Bengal Facebook page)

Kolkata is called the Mecca of Indian football. The three big clubs of Kolkata has enjoyed a wide fan following throughout the country since their birth. But the same could not be said for other clubs belonging to the country. Clubs in the I League have experienced dwindling numbers in their home games except for the Kolkatan Giants. The extent of dwindling fan following could be witnessed in the Chennai City FC vs Mohun Bagan game hosted by Chennai which saw more number of Bagan supporters than the hosts. India had always boasted a large fanbase for European powerhouses like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and others. Tottenham Hotspur recognized the potential of the Indian market and started uploading Facebook statuses in Hindi, and even posted on occasions of Indian festivals or when the Indian cricket team won. However the scenario is changing in the recent years with the emergence of the Indian Super League (ISL).

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The West Block Blues at India’s AFC Asian Cup Qualifier against Kyrgyzstan. (Photo courtesy: Indian Football Team Twitter page)

With the emergence of the ISL, many Indian football clubs now have their official fan clubs which are recognized by the clubs themselves. East Bengal has always had East Bengal The Real Power which is officially registered under the club. Established in 2006, the fan club always accompanies the football club wherever it goes bringing along with them a unique atmosphere. The fanclub has also been inspired by the likes of Borussia Dortmund, bringing along with them various TIFOs which highlight the club’s history and create a daunting atmosphere. Mohun Bagan has Sobuj Maroon Swapno as their official fanclub which was established in 2007. Different fanclubs like West Block Blues, Supermachans, Yellow Brigade and Manjappada have come up in recent years. The West Block Blues is a feisty group of Bengaluru FC supporters who create a unique and hostile atmosphere at the Western Block of the Kanteerava Stadium. It has been one of the popular fan bases in the country and one of the reasons because of their emergence is the emergence of Bengaluru FC, let alone their love for football. The West Block Blues even made their presence felt in India’s AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzstan yesterday. Indian captain Sunil Chhetri paid his tribute to the Bengaluru fans with a tweet following the game. The West Block Blues showed their hospitable side as well by providing places for spending the night to travelers who came from outside the city to watch the game. The Supermachans are a group of Chennaiyin FC supporters which is recognized as the official fan club of the ISL football club. Like all other fan clubs, the Supermachans also have their facebook and twitter page and post live updates about the football club. The Yellow Brigade and the Manjappada are the fanclubs of Mumbai FC and Kerala Blasters FC respectively. The home games of Kerala Blasters FC during the ISL are a sea of yellow and can give the likes of Dortmund a run for their money. It will be interesting to see the effect of these fans as the ISL clubs venture outside of country and plays in continental competitions.

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Certain football clubs like Aizawl FC, Shillong Lajong FC, Mumbai City FC enjoy wide fan following and full stadiums in their home games even in the absence of known fan clubs. The recent surge in fan following in Indian football is quite symbolical with the recent surge of the national team’s form on the international arena. With better marketing of the I League as promised by AIFF president Praful Patel, it will be hoped that resurgence of football fan culture in India will continue.

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