Even as dark clouds hover over Mumbai and thunder crashes with steady rain, a blanket of royal blue covers the stands of Andheri Sports Complex reflecting undying passion and most importantly the relentlessness to battle the rain to support the Nation.
At a time when on maybe all in Mumbai would prefer to stay indoors to stay away from the wet, the Pilgrims, consisting of fans across all Football Clubs in India feel a bit different – they prefer to flock to the Mumbai Football Arena the day before to create something special for the Team.
“We are making something that has never been done in Indian football before. We will be putting a 3D Tifo on display tomorrow for the final,” informs one of the blue pilgrims. “It will be magnificent. This is our way of showing our support and cheering for the team.”
From a distance you see some of them completely drenched, their wet T’Shirts, pants and shoes. But they stay engrossed with the paint and the brushes. There’s a senior artist who is working on the sketch and everyone wants to play their part. They say, ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth,’ but surely not this time.
You move around to talk to them. They greet you but stay unwilling to get their names published. “Behind the scenes, that’s our workplace,” is the generic sentiment. “We are the pilgrims, not individual stars.”
The biggest star of the country, however, salutes the Pilgrims. National Team Captain Sunil Chhetri says: “They are absolutely brilliant.”
After a pause, the man adds: “There are some 300 or more travelling fans. They are struggling for accommodation and are coming from all parts of the Country. Mind you, most of them are college students and maybe don’t have the money. But their passion surpasses everything.”
Right from the Viking clap to the ‘Vande Maatram’ from the ‘Sunil Chhetri poster’ to the ‘Inqualab-e-Indian Football banner,’ the Pilgrims are the perfect example that fans can actually rally behind the team as the 12th man.
Come the summit clash, the drums will be out as will the banners. They will always be there to cheer for their heroes. As they said in chorus: “Results don’t matter. We are part of the upward movement, that is Indian Football. “WeAreIndia. We #BackTheBlue and have an #AsianDream.”