LFL Twitter Spaces Podcast: The voice of Kerala Blasters FC, the fascinating story behind the Manjappada discussed

Fans shape the core of a club and shoulder the millions of emotions, passion, and devout commitment of their respective club. A strong fanbase turns the home stadium into a fortress and is accountable for showing the club’s might, standing strong and cheering for the team irrespective of the situation.

Kerala Blasters FC’s largest and ever-expanding, the Yellow Army, better known as the Manjappada, is a roaring name all over the state of Kerala. With a commanding presence not just over its state but across the nation and several other countries, the Manjappada is one of India's most recognised and honoured supporter groups.

With football at its heart, Kerala enjoys football like no other state, and this is the embodiment of the Manjappada, to bring together wholehearted fans of the Tuskers together. From lively anthems and player chants to astonishing tifos and banners, the Yellow Army has played an influential role by being a bridge to connect fans to their dearest club.

Somu P Joseph, one of the earliest members of the Manjappada narrates to us the stories of the Manjappada, the founding days, the struggles, their never-ending love for Kerala Blasters FC, and a lot more on the LFL Twitter Space Podcast alongside Hero ISL expert Anant Tyagi.

Listen to the full LFL Twitter Space podcast below:

On the emergence of the KBFC Manjappada

Somu P Joseph: After the late 90s, Kerala didn’t have a famed team or a player of any kind. Then through the Hero ISL, Kerala Blasters FC came through, and if there is a team from Kerala then definitely we will love that team, and that’s how it started. When I started to feel the experience of the team, the vibe in the stadium, the players, that love just blossomed, and it's continuing to blossom.   

Numerous fanpages started to form on Facebook once Kerala Blasters FC was announced as a team. That was the initial start of the Manjappada. Once we understood that the community has been growing, we coined the name Yellow Army a.k.a the Manjappada. Then, we started with the Whatsapp group, which grew into several Whatsapp groups in accordance with several districts, and then later on internationally as well. Now, the Manjappada is a 68,000 strong Whatsapp community which is spread across 40-45 countries, and that is how we have evolved into an indomitable group now.

On the impact of the KBFC Manjappada

Somu P Joseph: After a disappointing second season, we brought all the fans under one umbrella, under the KBFC Manjappada and we inculcated more of our passion to the club. We wanted each and every one of us to come to the stadium to witness the match, so we made them understand the importance of banners, tifos, and eventually we started this culture. The other side of this being, there were another lot of people who wanted to be in our stands because of this culture.

There are a lot of learnings as well because during the third season we coordinated with several people, arranging buses to the stadiums for the fans. So, as a result, people came in masses to witness the match even from remote locations. Before the season, we launched an anthem which even caught the attention of an ordinary man who is not a vivid follower of football. So, that made several people think about Kerala Blasters FC and the Manjappada. Through several learnings as such, we developed an organised and a structured fanbase in Kerala.

On the uniqueness about the Manjappada

Somu P Joseph: People from all sorts of life come to watch matches, and that doesn’t mean they are rich. There are people who work part-time, they save some money and travel overnight, having just one meal because they cannot afford more. These fans are then welcomed by some pre-match activities at the stadium, be it drums, musical instruments, banners, or tifos, which is followed by cheering for the team bus. During the match and after the match, the chants are continuously being sung irrespective of whether the team has won, lost, or drawn.

On the atmosphere at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi

Anant Tyagi: I was commentating for the game where KBFC scored their first-ever Hero ISL goal at their home stadium. I remember the game, there were close to 50,000 spectators in the stands. Every time the ball reached the final third through a Kerala Blasters player, the crowd would shake and if there was a shot on goal, they would shake even harder, a human earthquake.

On getting to witness the Hero ISL 2021-22 finals from the stands

Somu P Joseph: For the last two years, we were not able to watch the team in stands, and it was a big issue because football without fans is nothing. So, we were happy to get the opportunity to watch our players who performed so well throughout the season and that was unimaginable. But we face quite a few challenges to reach Goa because a few of us did not have tickets. Few of the fans travelled to Goa without the tickets in the hope of receiving tickets in Goa. We were sad that we lost the final but at the end of the day, if you see the season as a whole, it was one of the best seasons we ever had.

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