FC Goa has been absent from the Forca Goa chants in the stands over the past two seasons in the Indian Premier League (ISL) as it has had to come to terms with playing behind closed doors. But they seem to like a packed Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, as the return of the fans has certainly been instrumental in the rise of FC Goa in the early parts of this ISL season.
FC Goa is unique in that they have two fan clubs – FC Goa Fan Club and East Lower Army, both of which have not been caught up in the restrictions of the bio-bubble over the past two years – they have organized car rallies to accompany their team from buses to games, and even attend training sessions from afar To ensure that the players did not feel isolated. But for Sameer Shirodkar, a FC Goa believer and member of the Lower East Army, the return to the stands has trumped all that.
“It was like a lifeline,” Samir said.[The tournament] It was happening in Goa and we couldn’t see it, so it was really heartbreaking for us. But that’s what it is and now we’re trying to get back in the stands like we did before and cheer on the boys. And you can find out from the local record of FC Goa. We kept a clean sheet in both of our home games and won both games.”
One of the reasons fans like Samir return to the stands every season is the local connection football gives them. Like many football fans in India, Sameer’s association with football before he started the ISL was with European clubs. With the ISL coming into the picture and the on-going side bringing to the stadium to follow one’s favorite team, that has changed.
“With FC Goa, what happens is you get your local team. That was missing in the beginning and that gap has now been filled with FC Goa. Our main focus is our chants – everything is local, so people can relate to it. What happens if you have cheers? Local is that it increases fan engagement. So that’s what we’re trying to do. We have people coming from different parts of Goa, even from isolated cities.”
Apart from simply supporting their players on the field, Lower East Army also attends away matches – this is by design to create greater awareness about Indian football. With the ISL and its fan culture abroad, Sameer says a lot of local fans are drawn to Indian football.
Sameer says, “ISL was really important – not only in the football aspect, but also in making people aware of football happening all over India. ISL was a new platform, it created this atmosphere where people know that football happens. It helped me a lot in my opinion.”
What is also notable is that FC Goa fans bring their own flavor to the fanbase. One characteristic that fans have adopted from Goan culture is the idea of Susegad, which means relaxed or content; But this does not diminish the fans’ passion for their team.
“People want to sit back, Socijad, and enjoy the game. But they will be with the team no matter what. There will be doubts here and there but these people, even though they are Socijad, will always support the team. And we are trying to get more and more people involved in chanting, which is to come,” he reveals. Samir.
FC Goa has had a great start to the new ISL season, and is currently sitting in 3rd place on the table with a match in hand. Most fans, like Samir, were expecting a rebuild this season, but were impressed by the bold style adopted by new coach and former FC Goa player Carlos Pena. They will take on Bengaluru FC, tomorrow, November 26th to try to climb to the top of the table – and while they do so, the Near East Army intend to welcome them with a new TiVo.
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