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The Indian Super League has many keen fans in Australia, especially from the Goan community
Imagine staying up till 2am to watch Indian soccer and then waking up at 7am to get to school. It may not be an ideal situation, but for a dedicated group of youngsters in Australia, it’s a sacrifice they are willing to endure for the Indian Super League (ISL) 2015 underway in far-away India.
A growing number of Goans and other Indians here have been faithfully following the second edition of ISL either on Fox Sports TV or Live TV with intensity and enthusiasm, even if it means going to bed in the wee hours and waking up a few hours later.
Hero Indian Super League is India’s unrivalled football championship played during the fourth quarter of the calendar year. It is co-promoted by IMG-Reliance (the joint venture between IMG and Reliance Industries), Star India and supported by All India Football Federation (AIFF).
India’s leading industrialists and celebrities from sports as well as the Indian film industry have invested in owning the Indian Super League’s eight franchises. These are based out of Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune.
For the first time in Indian football, globally renowned footballers have been playing alongside the best Indian talent. With a mission to revolutionise the sport, Hero Indian Super League is positioned as a high quality and dynamic league that promises to elevate Indian football to an international level.
Eight teams including Atlético de Kolkata, Chennaiyin FC, Delhi Dynamos FC, FC Goa, FC Pune City, Kerala Blasters FC, Mumbai City FC, NorthEast United FC are participating in the championship.
“It’s a soccer treat that comes just once every year and why would I miss this one,” justifies Samson Fernandes (14) from Adelaide in South Australia.
Samson still cherishes watching some matches involving FC Goa during the inaugural edition of ISL from the stands at Fatorda stadium in Goa and also meeting his icon, Romeo Fernandes.
Considering that Adelaide is five hours ahead of Indian Standard Time, ISL matches are watched on television from midnight for the next couple of hours. But Samson, his brother Shane and their mates here are prepared for the sacrifice till mid-December.
An ardent Chelsea fan in the Barclays Premier League, Samson feels FC Goa has a much better chance to clinch the title this year and hopes to make the trip down to Goa, should FC Goa continue with its winning ways.
“It’s going to be a treat to watch FC Goa play in the finals, considering that the finals are slated to be played at the Fatorda stadium,” says Samson.
The colourful atmosphere, the chanting of “let’s football” or “Viva FC Goa” accompanied by blaring music from the stands, the carnival-like atmosphere and the large crowds are some of the many memories that Samson and Shane have from the last edition of ISL.
But the icing on the cake was meeting in person the many stars like Brazilian coach Zico, Robert Pires, former Sydney FC player Tolgay Özbey and Goan duo of Romeo Fernandes and Mandar Rao.
“My FC Goa edits on Facebook page or Instagram tweets have been “liked” by many soccer players from FC Goa,” states an elated Samson, who along with his mates in Adelaide spends the weekends discussing reviews of the matches.
Adds Glen D’Souza from Brisbane, “The ISL has brought Indian soccer to homes in Australia. Sitting in the comfort of our lounges in Australia, it is great to be able to follow all the matches played, with many of them shown live. The big expatriate Indian population is being able to watch the tournament with avid interest.”
“As keen FC Goa supporters, our household watches all the matches played by Goa with keen interest. My son Elijah wears his FC Goa jersey with a lot of pride. When Goa plays, he will even go to bed in it.”
According to D’Souza, the popularity of the Brazilian team in Goa is no secret. “With Zico at the helm at FC Goa, it adds a new dimension to seeing our youngsters rub shoulders with some big names,” he says.
He adds, “To see India draw some big names, albeit many brought back from retirement, is a pleasure. Players might get old, but their tricks will never disappear. To see more and more big names join this year is impressive and proof of where Indian football has reached. Hence, it is no surprise that Fox Sports is streaming most of the matches live due to the popularity of the sport here.”
In Adelaide, the FC Goa Fan team comprising Alister Rodrigues (18), Kris Fernandes (17), Karrell Vaz (16), Samson Fernandes (14), Shaun Roswan (10), Kyrel Vaz (10), Leon Fernandes (10), Shane Fernandes (9) and Brisbane-based Elijah D’Souza (9) have a plan to make FC Goa a popular brand. And how do they intend to go about it, over 7000 kms away in Australia?
“If a Manchester United, Chelsea or an Arsenal fan in remote India can popularise the English Premier league, why can’t we do the same for FC Goa and ISL from our new home,” reasons out Samson, who plans to wear the FC Goa colours during his social gatherings.
Even as the second edition of ISL is nearing halfway and the teams are getting a feel of the matches, the young FC Goa fans in Australia have already predicted a final clash: FC Goa versus FC Pune.
Many may say it’s too early to draw a conclusion on the finalists at the second edition of ISL, but FC Goa playing on home turf in the finals would be a mouth-watering match for the young FC Goa fans, who have been staying up way after bedtime here in Australia.