1. Indian football’s ray of hope
The popularity of the sport in India has steadily grown over the years. The 2018 FIFA World Cup
will see Indian fans make a beeline for stadiums in Russia. After all, it stands third in tickets
sales for a nation that does not have its team participating! However, the scenario back home is
starkly different. Near-empty stadiums at the Intercontinental Cup matches were one of the
reasons why Chhetri uploaded a video pleading for support from fans. His three-and-a-half-
minute video was one of the most passionate moments of Indian sports. Speaking straight from
the heart, he struck a raw nerve with India’s sports lovers. He also received support from
several top sportspersons including Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina.
Thanks to Chhetri’s video which went viral, Indian fans thronged the stadium to support the
national football team. While cricket had Sachin Tendulkar in the 1990s and 2000s, Indian
football had no clear hero. Bhaichung Bhutia showed some promise for a brief period. But no
one could capture the imagination of Indian fans. That is, until Chhetri spoke in early June. Only
time will tell if he will be able to consistently hold the attention of a cricket-crazy nation. For
now, he’s Indian football’s ray of hope.