Tue, Jun 05, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Kohli backs soccer captain’s plea to fans

AFP, NEW DELHI

Bengaluru’s Sunil Chhetri acknowledges the crowd after his team’s 3-1 win against Pune City in their Hero ISL semi-final in Bengaluru, India, on March 11.

Photo: AFP

Virat Kohli has joined a plea by India’s soccer captain for fans to fill empty stadiums after just 2,569 turned up to watch the national team play.

Cricket captain Kohli and batting legend Sachin Tendulkar backed Sunil Chhetri’s heartfelt plea that went viral on social media after India thrashed Taiwan 5-0 in a near-empty Mumbai Stadium last week.

A disheartened Chhetri, who scored a hat-trick, took to Twitter in a video to urge people to come out and support the team.

“To everyone who has lost hope in Indian football I request you to come and watch us in the stadiums,” Chhetri said in the message. “It is not fun to criticize and abuse on the Internet, come to the stadium and do it on our face. Scream at us, shout at us, abuse us, who knows one day we might change you guys.”

India, who are 97th in the FIFA rankings, were due to play Kenya in the four-nation Inter-Continental Cup late yesterday.

New Zealand are also taking part.

The team fell to No. 166 in the world rankings in 2015, but have improved under English coach Stephen Constantine.

“To all of you who are fans of big European clubs and support European clubs with so much passion, and sometimes you guys think that the level is not the same, so why do you waste your time?” Chhetri said. “Agreed, the level is not the same, not even close, but with our desire and determination we will try our best to make your time worth[while].”

Kohli took to Twitter to back his soccer counterpart.

“Please take notice of my good friend and Indian football skipper @chetrisunil11’s post and please make an effort,” Kohli said.

“C’mon India... Let’s fill in the stadiums and support our teams wherever and whenever they are playing,” Tendulkar added.

The game involving Kenya and New Zealand also witnessed a lukewarm response with just a few hundred people scattered across the stadium.

Chhetri was due to make his 100th appearance for the national team yesterday, a feat only bettered by Bhaichung Bhutia’s 104 appearances.

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