NEW DELHI: Virat Kohli has joined a plea by India’s football 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 criticise 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, play Kenya in the four-nation Inter-Continental Cup on Monday. New Zealand are also taking part.
The team fell to 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?,” said Chhetri.
“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.”
Kohli took to Twitter to back his football counterpart.
“Please take notice of my good friend and Indian football skipper @chetrisunil11’s post and please make an effort,” Kohli said.
Tendulkar added “C’mon India… Let’s fill in the stadiums and support our teams wherever and whenever they are playing.”
The game involving Kenya and New Zealand also witnessed a lukewarm response with just a few hundred people scattered across the Mumbai Football Arena.
Chhetri will make his 100th appearance for the national team on Monday, a feat only bettered by Bhaichung Bhutia’s 104 appearances. —AFP