Clubs affiliated to geographic areas see better fan-following: ISL lesson

Fans waiting for Indian Super League tickets outside Nehru Stadium in Guwahati on September 26 (Photo: easternfeed.com)

The sleeping giant needs to get up and get kicking. If not now, when? Long queues for Indian Super League tickets in Guwahati proved that the love for the beautiful game of football is still blooming. On September 24, there were a few fans queuing up in front of the box office at the Sarusajai Stadium complex – waiting for the ticket sales to begin. It never started. The next morning (September 25), hundreds of fans queued up again, only to be told that the window won’t be opened that day. Television news teams arrived at the spot, stories were done – prompting the NorthEast United FC to announce next morning that the tickets will be issued from 12 noon.

Before the news could be aired, there was a long queue already waiting to get their hands on the first few tickets. BookMyShow.com, the official e-ticketing partner, website was searched vehemently and a few smart ones (easternfeed.com published the link here) found the link to book their tickets even before the official sales began.

Within an hour the online categories (comprising almost half the stadium seats) were sold out. All set for the opening ceremony on October 1 – the day Guwahati will witness one of the most glittering sporting events unfolding in the Northeast.

SCENE 2

Even before it began, the dates for the Finale was “forced changed” as it clashed with the Indian Super League’s inaugural at Guwahati. In its 64th season this year, the Bharat Ratna Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi Trophy began at the Nehru Stadium with a lot of promise on September 18. Rather, the promises died soon after as fans failed to participate. The ticket counters at the Nehru Stadium, now a poorer cousin of Sarusajai Stadium, couldn’t get going. The organisers’ move to add glitter to the traditional football tournament with mix of music, food and celebrities was welcoming, but, not so much for the fans. Indeed, it was heartening to see the organisers putting up a brave front in their attempt to revive the glory of the Bordoloi Trophy. The attempt clicked, to some extent, with a promise to come back stronger next season.

SOME LIGHT, SOME HOPE

Critics often term the Indian Super  League as a ‘bright light blinding the eyes from the crumbling football scene in the country’ but the way fans lapped up the league, there’s no wonder the queues could rub with the sponsors leading to more people willing to play the game. Not gold, but the glittering league is a hope that binds fans people to come, sit and cheer for the teams.

If the queues could excite the establishment in strengthening the football infrastructure in the country, here are some pictures taken by easternfeed.com team.

If the empty stadium in the Bordoloi Trophy proves football-sans-drama won’t drive the crowds to the stadiums, it should be noted that clubs, be it any sport, affiliated to geographic areas will be the ones who will see fan-following in the country where even MS Dhoni can be booed at Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, New Delhi for helicoptering Albie Morkel – you know what I mean.

The success of Indian Super League in drawing crowd to the stadiums is exemplary. As ISL becomes the fourth biggest league in the world in terms of attendance – its average attendance is lower only than the Bundesliga (Germany), the Premier League (England) and La Liga (Spain), we now know the viewership of football in India is undergoing a change.

Have something to add to the story?
Jayanta Deka is a Guwahati-based journalist with more than 5 years of experience working with the Times of India. Tracking new media, technology and politics interest him. He can be reached through: