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With the new season of the Premier League starting on August 14, IMPACT speaks to passionate followers of the game, marketers and fans alike to understand how deep rooted the PL craze is in India.

The Premier League is undoubtedly one of the world’s longest sporting leagues, that takes place between August and May with the teams playing each other across the season for a total of 380 matches. This League is a cultural phenomenon that has spread far and wide in India over time, and the country has a fast-growing football fan following, some of them have gone to extreme lengths to support their favourite clubs. In turn, from Manchester City to Liverpool to Chelsea, these clubs are going all out to keep their fans in India engaged.

Since its formation more than a decade ago, the LMSC has gained a strong following. Delving into details, he says, “Across India we have around one lakh supporters in the average age group of around 25 years. Out of this 4.1 thousand are from Mumbai alone, the rest are from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, West Bengal and even the North-East.” Most of these supporters are students but they also include working professionals from all walks of life, right from advertising agencies to coaches, sales, marketing etc. Talking about the formation of the fanclub which he considers a stroke of destiny, Zore says, “There was a meet held for the first time in Shivaji park with eight to ten fans turning up once for a Sunday morning game. “I was lucky to be amongst them. Post that, we continued to have tournaments with other clubs to increase the number of followers. We also had screenings for the top four Liverpool games and some more fan matches. We used to sing pre match anthems and the in-game songs of various players and had special finals screenings every season. People turned up in volumes for them and we even took to the street when we won!”

As an association, they try to watch at least 10-15 games in screenings throughout the year. Other than that, they meet every Sunday for a ‘footy session’ either on the beach or the turf. Dutia said, “It has become a ritual in the past three years.” They also meet at a local bar for some pre match drinking. About these meetings, he says, “Here is where most of our chants are curated, along with a customary Ganpati Bappa Morya before the game.”
Aditya Tendulkar, a 29-year-old market research analyst, on the other hand, is a die-hard Tottenham Hotspur fan from Mumbai, part of the Mumbai Spurs with branches in Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, North East, Gujarat and several more cities. They have been an official supporters’ club for two seasons but have been around since 2012. About their average supporter, Tendulkar says, “The average age would be around 23-24. We have a very good mix of lifelong fans who have been around since the 90s and newer members too, who are students, working professionals and businessmen” Describing their rituals, he says, “Pre-match, we have a bingo where we choose a time when our beloved, Erik Lamela, would get a yellow card, along with the usual scorecard predictions.”

When passions run high, so do to tempers and it is safe to say that like all clubs the ‘Liverpool Mumbai Supporters Club’ has a fair share of rivalry stories. When asked if they had any such incidents, Zore says, “Oh yes! It goes without saying that Manchester United fans have always been the biggest pricks of all time. So during any Manchester United vs. Liverpool screening, there used to be crazy banters and fights. Of course, there were also glorious celebrations wherein we would light up the streets red with red smokes and fireworks.”
Speaking of the other events they organized, Zore says, “We used to have inter-fanclub matches. We had a league where Arsenal Football, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool supporters’ clubs had a tournament. After that, ex-Liverpool legends, Robbie Fowler, Luis Garcia had come down to Bandra, Bombay for a charity event organized by the Premier League in association with Standard Chartered. We were chosen to play that charity match and also volunteer.”

The one thing they share is that they are full of hope for the upcoming season of the Premier League. Zore, about his expectations says, “The team is in a great shape, we have our centre backs returning post injury and the squad is solid and tight in all positions.” Tendulkar is excited about a new manager with who comes a new chapter. “I’m going to back Nuno with everything I have and more! I’m most excited about the home NLD, it’s important to show your noisy neighbours that they were never from North London and should’ve remained South of the river, because North London is ours,” he says. Dutia had a similar, excited opinion- “The competition in the next season is going to be immense, with all teams strengthening squads. I am looking forward to Chelsea vs United and Chelsea vs Liverpool the most.”

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Tags : Neeta Nair football Premier League fans Liverpool Arsenal