Responding to captain Sunil Chhetri’s plea, Mumbaikars gathered in large numbers at the Andheri Sports Complex on Monday evening as the Indian football team defeated Kenya 3-0 to seal a place in the final of the four-nation Intercontinental Cup with one match to go against New Zealand.
Chhetri made sure that around 10,000 people who came to witness team India don’t go home disappointed as the Indian skipper scored a brace even as heavy downpour threatened to play spoilsport.
After the match, in a tweet, he said that if the team continues to get this kind of support in every match, the players will even give their lives on the pitch.
“We promise you that if that’s the kind of support we get every time we play for the country, we will give our lives on the pitch. India, this night was special because we were in this together. Those in the stands shouting, and the ones at home cheering – thank you!,” the tweet read.
We promise you that if that’s the kind of support we get every time we play for the country, we will give our lives on the pitch. India, this night was special because we were in this together. Those in the stands shouting, and the ones at home cheering – thank you!
— Sunil Chhetri (@chetrisunil11) June 4, 2018
Just two days before the match, Chhetri had tweeted an emotional video appeal requesting fans to come and support the team. “Please come and support us, encourage us, watch us, abuse us, criticise us. Football in India needs you. To all of you, who have lost hope or don’t have any hope in Indian football, we request you to come and watch us in the stadium,” he said.
Chhetri, who had scored a hat-trick in India’s first match, added, “It’s not fun to criticise and abuse on internet. Come to the stadium, scream at us, shout at us.”
This is nothing but a small plea from me to you. Take out a little time and give me a listen. pic.twitter.com/fcOA3qPH8i
— Sunil Chhetri (@chetrisunil11) June 2, 2018
There was an outpour of emotions following this video as all the tickets for the Kenya match were sold out one day before. However, puddles of water had formed in the field of play and what followed was a scrappy first half.
When the rain stopped, the groundsmen worked hard to get the water off the field throughout the half-time interval.
Even though the Kenyans looked better in the first half, India hit back strongly after the break and Chhetri opened the scoring with a penalty in the 68th minute before Jeje unleashed a pile driver off a rebound into the top corner from the edge of the box, three minutes later.
Befitting the occasion, Chhetri gave India another goal as he scored following a link-up with substitute Balwant Singh.