6/4/2018 11:51:38 PM (GMT+3)

AIFF failed to strike a chord with common football fan

AIFF failed to strike a chord with common football fan

MUMBAI: It was a match dedicated and belonged to Sunil Chhetri, who completed yet another milestone to be rated as one of the best strikers the country has produced.

Chhetri scored a brace in his 100th international match as India beat Kenya 3-0 here on Monday to seal their final berth at the four-nation Intercontinental Cup with one match to go against New Zealand.

An emotional appeal on the social media by the 33-year-old worked wonders as fans thronged the Mumbai Football Arena on a rain-drenched evening after one Youtuber, who had bought an entire block, decided to distribute the tickets free to the fans.

“A mere eight months after we convinced ourselves that there is indeed a Indian football spectator in all of us at the U-17 World Cup, the Indian captain has to plead with all of us to show up to watch the national team play,” tweeted senior The Times of India football writer Siddharth Saxena.

The Indian captain converted a penalty to put the hosts ahead in the 68th minute while Jeje Lalpekhlua doubled the lead three minutes later with a rasping shot. Chhetri added one more in the injury time to seal India’s victory.

Chhetri’s video garnered a lot of attention. From cricketing icons to international stars and organisations including Spanish La Liga backed his heartfelt message.

But one wonders AIFF’s marketing role and the sport’s promotion. The federation may be working overnight on the social media, but they have failed to touch the chord of the common football fan in the country.

If an Indian captain had to take refuge in the social media to attract the fans, then one wonders the role of AIFF’s workaholic media and marketing team.

Despite the Asian Cup qualification, Indian football isn’t a top international brand. Just by using the social media aided with colourful graphics or comments hardly had worked wonders in the last five years or so.

“And that too for the impossibly most ill-conceived and ill-timed tournament in memory. Which of the two moments was true - outpouring for U-17 World Cup or @chetrisunil11's strangely unsettling plea - and which one, the false idea of ??Indian fanhood?,” added Saxena.

The AIFF need not waste their energy on social media. The best they can do is to hire professionals, who would know how to connect with the common people.

But at the same time, the national team should perform consistently well and win international competitions. A win against Chinese Taipei or Kenya won’t really excite a common fan.

“There was a time when a newspaper report was good enough to get fans at the Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi. It was much more effective and result-oriented than social media because the majority of those who loved the game came from a non-English background,” tweeted Doha-based author Mohammad Aminul Islam.  

Indian football needs no introspection. They should take the sport to the schools and colleges. What we see on the AIFF’s social media pages are a mere eyewash.

A passionate Bengali or Malayali will buy tickets to watch a football game, come what may. And, they’ll also brave the heat or downpours to be present at the stadium.

“I don’t see any reason why the football fans will abuse our national team. But this four-nation cup is a meaningless competition. AIFF has once again proved their incompetence,” former international Mohammad Farid wrote on his social media page.