Perhaps some iota of nationalism jumps into action when one hears ‘India.’ Imagine fifty thousand people screaming ‘India, India’ and one is forced to feel not only nationalism, but goosebumps too.
When history makers – the Indian U-17 National Team took to the pitch to face USA in their Group A opener of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, more than fifty thousand people spurred the hosts from the moment the young colts came to the pitch for the warm-up.
And even though a brave Indian performance could only see the colts going down 0-3 against USA, the Indian U-17s won hearts and won applause. Every time an Indian on the pitch touched the ball, the crowd erupted into a frenzy, backing the blue.
For some 16 or 17 year olds making history, it was a very special moment. “Our fans are fantastic, we play for them and every moment on the pitch was special when you have the fans cheering for you,” said India U-17 National Team Captain Amarjit Singh.
“The fans are our soul, they are our twelfth man and we could feel their constant support throughout the match,” he added.
Komal Thatal, who was cheered for every touch of the ball said: “It is a different feeling to be playing in front of so many people. It is an experience which will stay with me all throughout.”
“Our fans were just exceptional. After the match I could see even little kids cheering for us and it was so emotional to see something like that,” he added.
At the same time, it was for the very first time that the Indian U-17s played in front of a fifty thousand people – the nerves were certainly high but the colts recouped. “This is the first time our players were playing in front of a crowd of 40,000 and that too, against a Team of the quality of USA,” said Head Coach Luis Norton de Matos. “My players were shy at the beginning. It’s very hard to control emotions at this level.”