When football got back its voice: The different shades of a yellow evening in Fatorda
The show must go on and it did. For the last two seasons, the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) kept Indian football’s flag flying high, battling the hurdles posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amid the testing times for India and the world, the Hero ISL provided an outlet for football lovers in the country to afford a smile on their face. The football was all there. There were goals, there were tackles, there were saves, there were emotions, there was sweat and also the hunger to succeed among every player that stepped onto the field.
There was celebration, there were tears. Trophies were lifted and some dreams shattered too. It was all there, but it also wasn’t at the same time. There was something missing.
"𝙁𝙤𝙤𝙩𝙗𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙗𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙡 𝙬𝙞𝙣𝙣𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙤𝙙𝙖𝙮"— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) March 20, 2022
🗣️ Here's a special message from Mrs. Nita Ambani, Chairperson, FSDL, as we welcome back the fans to the stands after 2 seasons! ❤️#HFCKBFC #HeroISLFinal #FinalForTheFans #HeroISL #LetsFootball pic.twitter.com/ZlDGX6H9Th
With empty stands and no fans, football lacked its voice, it was devoid of the colour that makes it the most popular sport on earth.
“As a former player and now as a coach, we play football for the fans. I think that in the last couple of months playing without the fans was weird. It was not nice playing in empty stadiums. It was not a good feeling,” Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic said.
“So, we were so pleased and grateful that the fans arrived from Kerala and it was great to see them here. We were enjoying that today and big thank you to all of them,” he added after the final.
Kerala Blasters FC lost the game by the finest of margins but their fans who have stuck with the team through the thick and thin, made their presence felt.
The fans of the Kochi-based side had been doing that even without stepping into the galleries all throughout the season through social media platforms, but being on the terraces at Fatorda was an altogether different spectacle.
“I can’t express the feeling of watching the match. To see the stadium full and the fans singing gave a different vibe. As a fan, all you want is to be able to watch and support your team live and that’s what I’ll take away from this game. It was a while back that I had gone to the stadium and it felt great,” Muhammed Jabir, a Kerala Blasters FC fan, told the ISL Media team about his experience of returning to the stadium.
“We lost the final but it’s okay. I trust Ivan and the team to bounce back. As a fan I think our team is the best. This is not the end, we will rise again,” he added.
For Jabir who is a regular at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Kochi, it wasn’t easy to travel over 750kms to Goa to support the team in the final, but for the love of football and Kerala Blasters FC, he made it.
“I am a student and so it’s hard to afford travel and accommodation costs. We decided to share everything. There were many fans who couldn’t afford this at all but still managed to come all the way to Goa. This shows our love towards our club,” Jabir said.
In the opposite end, the story wasn’t different. Hyderabad is a few kilometres closer to Goa but the travel between the cities also incurs a cost. But for Hyderabad FC fans who have been waiting to watch the team play live under head coach Manuel Marquez, it was an opportunity not to be passed up.
After just three seasons in the Hero ISL, Hyderabad FC had reached the final.
“Being fans we want to support the team even if the match is not in our home city. No matter what the situation, no matter the circumstances, we wanted to show our love,” Teja Reddy Mora, the founder of the Hyderabad FC forever fan club, told the ISL Media team.
“Watching any match even on TV is a great thing for fans but to watch a match in a stadium especially when your team wins the trophy is an experience that we can never forget in our lifetime. It was after a while that we managed to enter the stadium but the way we soared and roared we made up for lost time,” he added.
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"We couldn't hear Kerala Blasters’ fans, we could hear only our fans." 👀@HydFCOfficial Head Coach Manuel Marquez revealed what he told his men during the half-time break and captain Joao Victor shared a message for the fans! 🤩#HFCKBFC #HeroISLFinal #HyderabadFC pic.twitter.com/Jl5Ii9Vi80— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) March 22, 2022
For Hyderabad FC fans, the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation arranged a bus from Hyderabad to Goa for the final and despite being outnumbered by the Kerala Blasters FC fans, they made their voices heard.
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It was a great final where both teams had their spells. There was drama aplenty as the game went all the way to penalties. For large parts of the encounter, it was end to end. Till the very last kick, nobody knew who would win.
The fans though played their part. Once Hyderabad FC scored their late equaliser, there was a party in their stand that lasted late in the night. As for the Kerala Blasters FC section, the defeat couldn’t dampen their pride and voices.
It was a fitting end to one of the most entertaining Hero ISL seasons till date. It had all come together one last time before the curtains were drawn on the campaign. The best football was there but so were the fans, the chants, the colour and the passion.
What’s football without its fans? It’s a cliche that’s popped up way too often in the last two years. The different shades of the yellow sea at Fatorda on Sunday evening showed exactly what Indian football had been missing.
Football is nothing without the fans 🙌— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) March 23, 2022
We called you in and you didn't disappoint. Thank you for making this #HeroISLFinal, truly special ♥️#HFCKBFC #HeroISL #LetsFootball #FinalForTheFans pic.twitter.com/yHMOCLd4Hi