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Goal has a look at how the Bengaluru crowd have raised the bar when it comes to supporting their home team...

The dormant home support in the Garden City, Bengaluru had sprung into action ever since the inception of Bengaluru FC in the I-League this season.

One can say that the club has turned up in style in their first ever season in the top flight of Indian football. Under the expert guidance of former Manchester United academy graduate, Ashley Westwood, the plethora of quality footballers acquired this term have bloomed into a force to be reckoned! The fact that they have occupied the top spot in the I-League for much of the season is testament to their rapid growth.

The performances of The Steelmen have drawn the localites in large numbers ensuring a stadium packed with excited, passionate supporters every time they play. The current capacity of the Bengaluru stadium capacity stands at 8400 and one has to only look at the figures in some of the fixtures to understand the reason behind Bengaluru FC’s energetic performances at home this season.

FIXTURE

SUPPORT IN NUMBERS

Bengaluru FC 1-1 Mumbai FC

6500

Bengaluru FC 1-0 United SC

7328

Bengaluru FC 3-1 Dempo

6462

Bengaluru FC 0-0 Sporting Goa

6104

Bengaluru FC 0-2 East Bengal

8216

Bengaluru FC 1-1 Pune FC

8347

The fans' unwavering support was on full display as they turned up in record numbers for The Blues final home game last week against Pune FC - 8347 to be precise, which was a spectacle to behold.

The match day programme organized by them is a welcome initiative for the supporters. Brochures supplied to the fans contain all the related information on the two sides.

The announcements of the player names as they walk on to the pitch gives the entire set up a good vibe to it. They have even set up an LED display for the home crowd to relive crucial moments in the game.

Credit also goes to the staff who have ensured that every inch of the stadium, from the cafeterias to the washrooms, have been maintained in pristine condition.

One cannot talk about the Bengaluru Stadium without mentioning the West Block A stand. The 800 seater stand is host to an extremely passionate set of fans and has created quite a buzz around the country with their extremely enthusiastic support. The intensity of the support can be summed up in the words of Aparna Ramaswamy, one of the ever present supporters –"The atmosphere is buzzing. West block A is brilliant. The chants, the passion, brilliant place to be in!"

Fans chanting for 90 minutes is a rare sight in I-League, but not when it comes to Bengaluru FC! The fans make it a point to arrive an hour before the games to express their support. They have shown their intent to get involved and support their side by coming up with popular chants like "Oh when the blues go marching in...", "Namma ooru Bengaluru, Who are we? BFC !", to create an intimidating atmosphere for the away sides.

Club captain Sunil Chhetri who has represented a number of clubs before and is one of the few Indians to have plied his trade at foreign clubs said, “I have played for a lot of clubs in the country but haven't come across fans like the ones in Bangalore. Where else have you heard fans chanting for 90 minutes? We have an almost-packed house every home game and that says a lot about what this club means to the fans. It's a pleasure to play in front of them.”

The supporters have also made it a point to come up with player specific chants. The sight of the home crowd in thousands urging the players on with chants like "Oh oh oh Osano", "Let’s go Johnson…", "If you’re happy and you know it, shout Beikho", amongst others creates an electrifying atmosphere at the stadium - a thrill that football supporters in Bengaluru have rarely experienced before.

John Johnson, one of the clubs foreign recruits was all praise for the home support. “The fans have been brilliant to say the least. Backing the team irrespective of the score. I come from a country (England) where fans are very vocal and it heartening to see scenes like those at the Bangalore Football Stadium.”

The club’s number one custodian, Pawan Kumar enjoys the special support he receives during corners: "Every time we concede a corner, the stadium goes 'Pawan Kumar' and it's something I haven't experienced anywhere else. It's a pleasure to play in front of this crowd."

Affordable ticket prices have been another key factor in drawing large crowds. The pricing, which starts from Rs.30, 50, 200 and 500, ensures tickets are affordable to all class of supporters. Tie-ups with BookMyShow enabling online ticket booking, and with Café Coffee Day who sell tickets at some of their outlets, has resulted in large turnouts, especially  from the educated sections of the city largely known for its IT hub. For those fans who miss out on availing the tickets, Arbor Brewing Company, who happen to be the club’s home pub, telecast the games along with selling merchandise as well.

The club is extremely active on social media and have made every attempt to involve passionate fans on match days. Arpan Bhandari, a fan chosen to volunteer during the home games, reflected on his experience, “As a volunteer, I could choose from being at the BFC Shop, the official merchandise dealer or be there to look after the hospitality of the players/audience. It's a brilliant experience and something every BFC fan must give a try because if you're a BFC fan, you are a part of the BFC family and the stadium is your home.”

The club has involved the fans in every step of the way with their excellent marketing strategies. Be it giving live commentary on popular social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, or involving a few lucky fans to participate in mini games during the half-time, they have left no stone unturned in popularising the game.

The club even went on to host the 'BFC Day Out' which turned out to be a huge success amongst the home faithful. Entries flowed in as a lucky few selected via a draw got to experience a training session with their idols. Such initiatives from the management has gone a long way in bridging the gap between the supporters and the fans.

Aishhwariya Subramanian voiced her excitement at the opportunity to share the pitch with the players: "It was such a pleasure to interact with all the players from BFC. And being coached by the players added to the fun we were having."

The home crowd has been the envy of the away team coaches as well. In the words of Pune FC coach, Mike Snoei, whose side played faced Bengaluru FC in the Blues final home game “This (the home crowd) is fantastic. I have been coach for 20 years and I only play football for this.”

The Steelmen have been one of the most forward thinking clubs in the country and their strategies have taken shape in order to build the Bengaluru FC brand.

With support like this, it is no wonder that they enjoy playing at the Bangalore Stadium so much.

Clearly, the fans here in Bengaluru are in love with their team. Win or lose, you can bet that the crowd will back the Blues!

 

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