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Why AIFF should not award India games to apathetic Goa!

7:32 PM MYT 15/11/2017
India v Myanmar ; AFC Asian Cup qualifier Goa
Despite hosting an India game after a while, the attendance in Goa was far from satisfactory.....

Goa is undoubtedly one of the few regions in the country which can be termed as 'footballing hotbed'. The tiny coastal state has a rich heritage when it comes to producing footballers and supporting the beautiful game. 

The presence of established clubs like Dempo SC, Churchill Brothers and Salgaocar is a testament to the footballing culture in the Western Indian state. 

Which makes it all the more perplexing that Goan spectators have been apathetic recently when it comes to watching games at stadiums, despite the game seeing an exponential rise in interest among the youth with the advent of the Indian Super League (ISL) and the uplifting performances of the senior men's national team. 

On Tuesday, Goa hosted the Indian senior team's 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Myanmar. India had been playing its home games at the Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai and the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bengaluru. 

It had been a while since Goa hosted an India game and much was expected in terms of the turnout. However, what transpired was disappointing with a sparse crowd witnessing the game which ended in a 2-2 draw with Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri getting on the scoresheet. 

Though Mumbai and Bengaluru did not witness packed houses, the crowd at those two venues were substantial with the Blue Tigers receiving plenty of backing from the stands. What makes Tuesday's low turnout in Goa even more surprising is the fact that both Bengaluru and Mumbai are not really known for huge footballing fanbase. 

But perhaps, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) should have anticipated this before deciding to award this game to Goa. 

They only had to look as far behind as the FIFA U17 World Cup to have had an inkling as to what was to come. Despite not hosting the India U17 games, Mumbai, Kolkata and Guwahati witnessed superb attendance figures while Kochi witnessed full houses in several games, despite not witnessing expected levels of attendance. 

But the number of tickets bought online for the Goan games was extremely low and was subject to debate before the tournament started. Though the tickets sales picked up when the offline counters opened, the figures were still low. 

Strikingly, even the squad unveiling of Goa's ISL side FC Goa attracted very few people. But, that is not the case during FC Goa's games, with fans thronging the stadium in droves. Which makes one wonder why that was not the case on Tuesday? Why was the national team unable to attract fans as the state's ISL team did? 

It could have been as a result of the lack of promotion and marketing but does the national team really require extensive marketing in order to fill up venues? Or is it the glitz and glamour of the ISL the motivation for Goans to watch the game from the stadium?

At any rate, this should really force the AIFF to look before they leap when it comes to awarding India games to venues which do not attract big crowds.