Indian Super League: Sunil Chhetri feels football fan rivalries are great for sport
After two consecutive defeats, Bengaluru FC will be desperate to control their downward slide when they clash with hosts Kerala Blasters FC in Kochi in an Indian Super League (ISL) match on Sunday.
But the Sunil Chhetri-led side is aware that it will not only be up against a strong Blasters side at home but they will also have to tackle a vociferous partisan crowd which is bound to make their task doubly difficult.
Chhetri thinks that this kind of inter-club and inter-city rivalry is good for the game but there should be mutual respect for each other and safety of the individual shouldn’t be compromised.
Q: A word on the banter between West Block Blues and Kerala Blasters fans “Manjappada”?
Chhetri: The way I look at it, it’s great for Indian football. We haven’t played each other even once and everyone’s talking about the game! I’m sure Sunday is going to be a great atmosphere and hopefully the fans will get a game they enjoy.
Q: How will it reflect on the field Sunday evening?
Chhetri: We don’t really let pre-game banter and talk get in the way of things once the whistle to kick-off is blown. Yes, the crowd does play a big part in the way things turn out on the pitch, but as players, you get into a zone where the focus is on what’s happening on the pitch.
Q: According to Ian Hume, the banter is good for football, but is it good that if this banter outgrow the limits?
Chhetri: Fan rivalries in football are great for the sport as long as it doesn’t get ugly and the safety of someone is compromised with. Everyone comes to the stadium to back their teams and after a certain point, there has to be mutual respect.
Q: Most of the people in Kerala expects huge dominance of yellow over blue in the gallery on Sunday evening, will it a put an extra pressure on you and your team?
Chhetri: Playing away from home is always a tough proposition, and it will be tougher when the home fans manage to pack the stadium, like Blasters fans will. I am sure it’s going to be a great atmosphere but I don’t think we will be taking the pitch with an extra pressure.
Q: How do you evaluate and rate KBFC as an opponent?
Chhetri: They may have had a slow start but Kerala Blasters are a team that has quality in all areas of the pitch. They are always going to be a more dangerous team at home. They’re coming into this game on the back of a late fight-back against Chennaiyin FC and I’m sure they will come all guns blazing at home against us.
Q: Vineeth and Rino know in and out of BFC , likewise you know a lot about both of them, is that an opportunity and threat at the same time?
Chhetri: We have quite a few former BFC boys with the Blasters now. There’s Rino, Vineeth, Sandesh, Siam and Karan, but it all boils down to what happens during those 90 minutes on the pitch. Like I said, this game has all the elements of being an entertaining one.