India

Sunil Chhetri: India football fans fill stadium after captain's plea

Sunil Chhetri Image copyright Sunil Chhetri
Image caption Sunil Chhetri has played 99 games for India

Indians have rushed to buy tickets for an India-Kenya football match in Mumbai after home team captain Sunil Chhetri pleaded with fans to attend games.

All 7,000 tickets at the Mumbai Football Arena for Monday's game sold out after his video went viral.

Chettri made the appeal on social media after only 2,569 fans turned up to watch their most recent game.

His video was shared by thousands of people, including the cricket captain Virat Kohli.

Cricket is hugely popular in India and often overshadows other sports like football and hockey.

"Please come and support us, encourage us, watch us, abuse us, criticise us. Football in India needs you," he says in the video.

Chhetri, who scored a hat-trick in the previous match, added: "To all of you, who have lost hope or don't have any hope in Indian football, we request you to come and watch us in the stadium.

"It's not fun to criticise and abuse on internet. Come to the stadium, scream at us, shout at us."

Fans, including cricket captain Virat Kohli, responded to his plea with enthusiasm.

The Blue Tigers, who are ranked 97th in the world, beat Chinese Taipei 5-0 in Mumbai on Friday in the opening match of the Intercontinental Cup, a four-team tournament that also features New Zealand and Kenya.

Chhetri had also aimed part of his message at Indian football fans who support European club teams.

"Sometimes you guys think the level is not the same so why waste your time?" said Chhetri. "I agree the level is not the same, not even close, but with our desire and determination, we will try our best to make your time worth it."

India, coached by former Millwall boss Stephen Constantine, play Kenya at 8pm [local time] on Monday, when Chhetri will win his 100th cap.

Ranked at an all-time low of 166th in the world in 2015, India have steadily improved over the past three years to reach their highest ranking.

Related Topics