It was hailed as a splendid victory when India beat Taipei on June 1, 2018, in Mumbai. Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri shot a hat-trick. However, the empty stands tore the heart of the Indian skipper. One could count the number of spectators. In a heart-wrenching message on Twitter, the Indian skipper asked fans to do come to watch their nation’s player’s play.

India will be playing against Kenya on June 4, 2018. The play will start at 8.00 PM at Mumbai Football Arena, Mumbai. Skipper, Sunil Chhetri will be playing his 100th cap in the game. This is a rare milestone in Indian Football history. The only other player to have crossed this milestone is former Indian Skipper, Bhachung Bhutia.

Football craze declining in India?

India is ranked 97 in the FIFA chart. The team is playing the 2018 Intercontinental Cup in Mumbai. On Saturday the Indian Soccer Team trounced Chinese Taipei, and Chetri scored his third international hat trick before almost empty stands.

Sunil Chhetri is one of the most renowned and most capped players asked everyone to come and watch the Blue Tigers play whenever they can. He also asked to create a buzz, discuss, make banners and encourage the players. He added that the Indian football is at a very crucial juncture.

Sunil is very correct when he says that Indian Football is at a very crucial juncture. It is something much akin to the Indian Badminton scene which featured a couple of players like Prakash Padukone and Syed Modi. Today we have players like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikant who are rubbing shoulders with the top-ranked world players.

They have also started breaking the great Chinese wall which was once considered impenetrable.

Chetri also asked all the internet critics and armchair experts who waste no time in spreading pessimism with caustic remarks to do it on the players face. He asked them to come to the stadium and shriek at the team, screech and abuse the players. He hoped that someday the players would be able to change them and they start cheering for the team. Chetri added that the standards of International Football are incredibly high, but he hoped that with fans support the Indian team will be able to reach that standard some day in future.

Though Sunil Chetri did not mention cricket, still his inference was too obvious. The top cricketers including Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar gracefully joined the Indian skipper’s appeal and vociferously appealed the public to fill the stadiums as they had done for IPL matches and give a boost to Indian Football.

Well, known commentator Harsha Bhogle also threw his weight behind Sunil’s appeal. He hoped that he would see the Indian Football reach new heights of glory in his lifetime.

Chetri is also the country's all-time highest goal-getter. Although Indian Soccer is slowly gaining in popularity, the spectator turnout is pretty dismal. Saturday’s match in Mumbai was being played before 2000 spectators.

These spectators were a part of an organized group of supporters called “Blue Pilgrims.” What is more depressing is that the major sports channels also do not telecast football matches. There are hardly any viewers for Indian football though they may be Indian viewers for an England – Australia cricket match. Viewers hearty wholeheartedly cheer for European clubs and even support them but not for Indian clubs. This irony was also lamented by Chettri in his video on Twitter. Which team are you supporting today? India?

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