Blasters CEO Viren D'Silva pens an emotional note on fan culture
Kerala Blasters' CEO Viren D'Silva wrote a note addressing the issues and how he expected his fans, the Manjappada, to behave in the reverse fixture in Kochi.
The intensely fought Indian Super League (ISL) match between champions Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters on Saturday was a testimony to the growing prominence of football in the country. Ever since the advent of the ISL in 2013, football has managed to capture the public imagination, with better broadcast, and a wider representation.
The match between the two South Indian metropolitan cities -- Bengaluru and Kochi -- have in the last few years become the most anticipated fixture of the season. More than 27 thousand fans - a record - thronged Bengaluru's home stadium Sree Kanteerava on Saturday to witness this season's first between the two ISL sides.
As anticipated, there were a few instances of fan violence, with both sets of fans having a go at each other from the stands. Luckily, better sense prevailed and there was no reported case of any injury. Thankfully, stakeholder of the game have started acknowledging the rising number of such cases across the country, which will be a big boost as Indian football tries to stay away from the problems that mar Western football.
On Monday, Kerala Blasters' CEO Viren D'Silva wrote a note addressing the issues and how he expected his fans, the Manjappada, to behave in the reverse fixture in Kochi. The Blasters' leader acknowledged the worrying trend in fan culture where there is an eagerness to mimic the West.
Here is the FULL TEXT (Source: Kerala Blasters)
"Who the f... are Kerala Blasters?
Today, I woke up with mixed emotions. On one hand, we suffered a 1-0 loss to Bengaluru FC, the ISL- Indian Super League 2018-19 Defending Champions! No matter how many years I spend in sport, it will take me at least 3 days to recover emotionally from such a loss. However, on the other hand, we just witnessed the making of one of the biggest rivalries in Indian Football where a sea of yellow KBFC fans, all 13000 of them (the quota of tickets that were made available to our fans) and BFC supporters, called West Block Blues - Bengaluru FC (please forgive if I've gotten the name wrong) came together to create the great Southern Derby.
What an evening for sport! At the stadium, I watched each group of supporters trying to one-up the other and each fan group trying to outsmart the other with their chants and banners. I saw men, women, young and the old, all come together to watch their favourite players take to the pitch. While in most parts, the fan groups were very divided in their opinion as to who should win or who the better team was, and on the other hand, there were also a few occasions when they forgot the colours they wore and came together to perform the Mexican Wave and to light up their phones like torches. They came together to watch a great game of football unfold. In the end, KBFC, our team, lost.
As I left the stadium, the yellow and blue seas mixed into one almost like small streams that joined to form one river of football fans where one set was elated and the other dejected beyond belief. I recall this incident and I’m sure that there were only a few like this. The KBFC fans were trying to clean up the banners and the mess left behind in the stadium, a tradition that we encourage as a club. Unfortunately, the ushers were very rude and aggressive. They manhandled a few KBFC spectators. In retaliation, the KBFC fans were arguing and the situation was about to get violent. Thankfully, better sense prevailed and both groups went their own way eventually. As I walked by, among the group of fans who were trying to calm the situation, I heard one KBFC fan, scream out of anger, “Wait, till they come to Kerala and we’ll show them”. I stopped in my tracks. Only at this moment, I felt we had not just lost the game on the field but had also fallen prey to some who don't understand this beautiful game. A few rotten apples made us feel the need for revenge, not just on the field but sadly off the field too. I’m not sure if the KBFC fans at any point instigated a similar situation that left the BFC fans distressed, but if we did, it does not represent what we stand for as a club and we condemn such actions and words. There were many heckles, most in good nature and spirit including this one that stood out, “Who the f... are Kerala Blasters?”
My answer to this is that Kerala Blasters FC is a football club that stands for collectivism, sportsmanship and inclusivity. We are God's own team from God's own country. We represent a state and its people all over the world where Yellow is pride and Yellow stands for belief. This is who Kerala Blasters is and would like to let all the BFC fans know that when they come, visit us in Kerala, they will be treated with nothing but respect. You will be allowed to express your love for your team and football in our state. Because that is who we are.
While we look to replicate a number of good practices from European football clubs and clubs from the rest of the world, one important aspect that our nation can do away with is football hooliganism - simply because it is not part of our culture. If any KBFC fan engages in hooliganism or any activity that is contrary to this belief in words or actions, then they are not wearing our colours with pride. This is a challenge to the Yellows and Blues of both teams, to every fan who loves football and could be a part of one of the greatest rivalries in Indian football in the years to come.
Let's do it with class dear friends. Taunt, but don't traumatize. Cheer, don’t jeer. Feel it, don’t fight it. Shout, don’t shame. Boo, don't ambush. Differentiate, don’t discriminate.
Let the way we watch football be representative of what this great nation stands for – non-violence. Love this beautiful game. What we can collectively achieve cannot be destroyed by a few individuals who don't understand what we are trying to create together. I am positive that my good friend and CEO of BFC, Mandar Tamhane, shares my views. We barely spoke about football during the last game but spoke more about how the turnout of fans amazed us and that the atmosphere was comparable with some of the best in the world.
I know for the best part that both the BFC and KBFC fans also share my views and will show mutual respect. In the words of Smt. Mrs. Ambani - #Let’sFootball India, It not just calls out to how we play our football, but also to how we watch, support and share this beautiful game. To reiterate my answer to your question - we are Kerala Blasters, a football club, your partner in creating the new biggest rivalry in Indian football that will be representing our love and passion for the sport.
Question is do we have it in us? Game on!"