If you are a member of Manjappada, you are a supporter of Kerala Blasters. The fact that it is not the other way around is often ignored.
The supporters' group of Kerala Blasters, which is the biggest fan group in ISL, is one that is hard to micromanage. The sheer anonymity and access to social media have given a lot of freedom for fans in the digital world.
Cyber-bullying is unacceptable, something that fans across the world are yet to come to terms with. When a player does well on the field, he is praised and when his performances go downhill, he is attacked and abused.
CK Vineeth has received plenty of support from Manjappada and Kerala Blasters supporters over the years. But negative messages get more attention than it deserves and gets spread very easily, a trend that has to come to the fore. It happens all over the world and not just in football.
Vineeth, understandably, is peeved at the abuse and hate coming his way from a section of the fans. But he did not complain when he was raised on to a pedestal by the majority. Players need to understand that fans will praise you to no end when your performances are great and criticise you very harshly when you don't live up to their expectation. It is a two-way street. Personal abuse is unacceptable. However, to single out an entire fanbase for the brainless actions of a few is unwarranted.
It is unfair to show Manjappada in a bad light because of the actions of a minority. It is important to note that the fan group's views are the posts on their social media pages and not the comments under each post.
As Mohammad Rafi said last season, "We have been criticised but we have been supported a lot more. Manjappada supported me a lot and they are the energy behind Kerala Blasters."
Fan groups like Manjappada are important, especially for a club like Kerala Blasters. Sandesh Jhingan was spot on when he said it was the fans that put the club on the map.
Iain Hume, in a Pune City kit, was applauded when he played against Kerala Blasters. Former coaches like Steve Coppell and Trevor Morgan were shown plenty of love when they came to the stadium.
The reality is that anybody with a social media presence, fake or real, can be part of the Manjappada group. They don't ask for Aadhaar cards for membership and there's no fee involved. Additionally, there are more than 100 WhatsApp groups, all usually filled with a bulk of messages before, during and after the game, sending out praises and criticism of things related to Kerala Blasters.
Manjappada's Ernakulam district head Prabhu, who was on the way to Goa to attend Blasters' match, was called by the assistant commissioner of Police for an enquiry based on a complaint by CK Vineeth. This was because a message alleging that CK Vineeth misbehaved with a ball boy did the rounds and the admin of the group Prabhu was addressed at the beginning of the message.
One solution to curb fake and abusive messages is to deny strangers entry into Whatsapp groups and maintain only an exclusive community of stadium-going fans. If that does not happen, similar incidents are bound to happen due to the sheer number of people involved in the Whatsapp groups.
To blame an entire community of supporters due to one person's opinion is as harsh as blaming one player for a team's defeat.