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Varun Kumar Mukhia/Khel Now

'Abuse us but support us' - Sunil Chhetri pleads with fans

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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A number of famous personalities including Virat Kohli have also joined the Indian skipper's plead with fans.

In an emotional message posted on social media, India captain Sunil Chhetri has pleaded with Indian football fans to come' and support the national team in the ongoing Intercontinental Cup in Mumbai. The Blue Colts' opening 5-0 thrashing of Chinese Taipei saw a decent amount of fans turn up but most of them were made up of the famous Indian fan group 'Blue Pilgrims'.

Watch Sunil Chhetri talk about his 100th India appearance

A few days after the win over Taipei, Chhetri posted a video on his social media pages in which he gives a heartfelt message to sporting fans in Mumbai. He starts it off by thanking the fans who did turn up to watch the national team, but urges the "non-football" fans to turn up for the next matches to watch their country fight it out on the pitch.

While football might be not the preferred sport for most Indians, the following for European Football has picked up leaps and bounds recently. The cricket-favouring fans fell in love with the game watching the glittering European clubs and if a non-football fan travels to witness the emotion, passion in display at Andheri whenever India play, they will definitely fall in love with the Blue Tigers.

Chhetri followed it up with a powerful statement intended for the fans of the "big" European clubs in the city. He said: "I agree that the level of football is not even close to that of European football. But, with our desire and determination, we will try our best to make your time worth it."

He's completely right when stating that Indian football is nowhere close to the level of the European game, but that doesn't mean it doesn't garner equal amount of support. The MLS or even the Australian A-League doesn't have that high A quality of football, but the growth in attendance and following enjoyed by those leagues has played a big part in their national teams becoming renowned for their development in football because of their consistent World Cup qualification to the World Cup.

The 33-year-old will be playing his 100th game on Monday for India against Kenya. Among all active international players around the world, Chhetri is the third highest scorer with 59 goals, only behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Chhetri also had an emotional message for the "fans" who had lost their hope in the development of Indian football as he said: "I request you to come and watch us in the stadium. It's not fun to criticize and abuse us on the internet. Come to the stadium and do it on our face. Scream at us! Shout at us! Abuse us! Who knows? One day we might change your opinions about us. You might start cheering for us."

His statement about the "internet fans" is spot on because of the number of "keyboard warriors" who rarely follow Indian football, but are the first ones to criticize the Colts. It's easy to criticize one, but to do it without following the team is wrong. Some of these "Internet fans"- who are under the impression of knowing it all about "quality football" by watching the top Europian sides with incredible infrastructure- should actually travel to the stadium and watch how capable the Indian players are in providing "beautiful" football when they are backed by the right kind of support.

Interestingly, La Liga's Twitter handle also retweeted Chhetri's message and promised to back him.

Chhetri also had a reassuring statement for the fans of Indian football who weren't able to attend the first game due to some work. He said: "To those who couldn't come due to work, school or delay. Please come and watch us in the stadium. You have no idea of the amount of impact you have on us. Your support is of utmost importance to us."

The Indian Team seems to play at another level when the fans come bearing loud voices, which was on display when the Tigers turned up the heat in the 5-0 victory over Chinese Taipei. The impact the fans can have is immense and unless most of us realize it, the untapped potential of the national team wcan't be realized.


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Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli also retweeted Chhetri's video and posted another one supporting him on Twitter. 

Along with Kohli, the likes of Rahul Dravid and commentator Harsha Bhogle have also voiced their support for Chhetri on this matter. Would an Indian cricket team captain ever have to plead the fans to come watch his team play? Even if India were to play a team like Afghanistan on a heated Monday afternoon, we'd still see the stadium being packed to the rafters. This kind of commitment is also required for football and those who want the sport to grow in the country, need to stick by the National team during its highs and lows.

Captain Fantastic ended his message in an urging manner and said, "So today I'm requesting all of you. 4th, 7th and hopefully 10th of June we are playing in Mumbai. Please come and support us. Encourage us. Watch us. Abuse us. Criticize us. Talk about the game. Go back home, have discussions and make banners. But please get involved."

He continued: "This is a very important time and juncture in Indian Football. So, please, I'm requesting you to come and watch us in the stadium. Now, in Mumbai and later whenever and wherever we play. If you are in the same city, come to the stadium and watch us. Please!"

Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and star Suresh Raina, along with Tennis star Sania Mirza also took to Twitter regarding Chhetri's plead with the Indian football fans. 

The hard-hitting end to his message shows the despair inside him for the lack of support for his side. The captain of a national team in any sport should never have to stoop to this level to have to almost beg people to come watch his side. This kind of despair is not fair on a player who has committed his whole career in trying to help football develop in the country.

Khel Now urges and encourages the fans from Mumbai to take out some time from their daily lives and for the Indian national team. If we, the fans, don't encourage and support our team to try and rally them on, then who will? So, fans in Mumbai, please attend the matches in the Intercontinental Cup and also those in future, as its not just about those on the field. Those in the stands also play a big part in the development of a country's football.

Published: Mon Jun 04, 2018 03:34 PM IST

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