With less than 2,000 fans in attendance for the Intercontinental Cup taking place in Mumbai, Sunil Chettri asked fans to look closer home and support the Indian team.

Watch abuse criticise us but get involved Sunil Chettris passionate plea to fansPTI
Sports Football Sunday, June 03, 2018 - 14:43

Even as excitement for the 2018 FIFA World Cup reaches a feverish pitch in India, with ads asking fans of the 'beautiful game' to profess their love for their 'doosra' country, the Intercontinental Cup in Mumbai is seeing less than 2,000 fans on the ground. 

Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri took to social media on Saturday to make a passionate plea urging fans to look closer to home and support Indian football. 

In a video released on Saturday evening, he urged fans to come watch the team at the stadium. "To all of you who have lost hope or do not have any hope in Indian football, I request you to come and watch us in the stadium. It is not fun to criticise and abuse on the internet. Come to the stadium. Do it on our face. Scream at us, shout at us and abuse us. Who knows, one day we might change you guys," he says. 

He also urged Indian football fans who passionately follow European teams to do their bit for Indian football as well. "To all of you who are fans of big European clubs, and support European clubs with so much passion ... Sometimes, you guys think that the level is not the same, so why waste your time? I agree the level is not the same. It is not even close. But with our desire and determination, we will make sure we try our best to make your time worth it,” he says. 

The plea comes at a time India has been in good form on the international stage. India is currently ranked 97 in the world and is competing against Chinese Taipei, New Zealand and Kenya in the Intercontinental Cup. 

India routed Chinese Taipei 5-0 on Friday in the opening game of the four-nation tournament in Mumbai, with 2569 fans reportedly watching from the stands. 

Chhetri scored a hat-trick at the near-empty Mumbai Football Arena leading to his passionate plea asking Indians to support the team. 

Chhetri asks fans to watch India's next game against Kenya on June 4 at the stadium. "You guys have no idea how important you guys are and how important your support is. On 4th, 7th and hopefully 10th June we are playing in Mumbai. Please come and support us, encourage us, watch us, abuse us, criticise us, talk about the game, go back home and have discussions and make banners. Please get involved. This is a very important time for Indian football," he adds. 

He also urged fans to come and support the Blue Tigers at the stadiums at every possible opportunity.

Chhetri's plea was followed by a wave of support from several sportspersons, including Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli, who urged Indians go watch football games at stadiums. In a video released on Twitter, Kohli asked fans to take note of Chhetri's plea and make it a point to support all sports to help the process of building a sporting nation. 

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