The AFC Challenge Cup may be the biggest international football tournament in India in some time, last year's Nehru Cup included if only because that was an invitation tournament. But the All India Football Federation (AIFF) does not seem to care about getting crowd to the ground as possible to cheer the hosts.
There seems to have been little effort to publicise the tournament here. When HT inquired randomly with a few people whether they would go to cheer India, the general response was that they weren't aware about the event being held here.
For the tournament opener between Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, the turnout didn't even reach triple figures. The crowd did swell to a couple of hundred for India's game against Afghanistan but for a 30,000 stadium, it was a small patch of life at an otherwise quiet venue.
B.M. R. Mehta, AIFF's media officer, said no effort was made to get people to the ground but pointed out tie-ups with a couple of local FM channels.
Some AFC officials who requested anonymity said the lack of local support also proved a hindrance since their focus was only on digital publicity.
Considering that India coach Bob Houghton has repeatedly emphasised on the need for support when the national team is playing, the Englishman would definitely not be happy with AIFF's effort. Even Tajikistan coach Pulod Kodirov was critical about lack of crowd response and even went on to say that “football without fans is no football” at the post-match briefing. Hope some one is listening in India.
Tajiks smitten by B’wood
When one journalist asked Tajikistan coach Kodirove about Bhaichung Bhutia and other members of the India squad, the coach said they did not know much about team and skipped the query about Bhutia.
Bollywood though is a different deal. SRK seems to be the most popular in Tajikistan.
Not just that. When a journalist started humming a Bollywood number, team manager Rajabov Hasan gave the chorus and even sang golden oldies like “Ruup tera mastana” and “Mera juta hai Japani”.