It was contrasting emotions at the Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday night in Bengaluru when the referee blew the final whistle and brought the Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 to a grand conclusion.
For all the excitement on the field, the supporters in the stadium were just as brilliant as they turned out in large numbers to cheer and chant for their team.
Bengaluru FC, playing on their home ground, had the advantage in terms of numbers as Kanteerava filled up with blue jerseys. The travelling fans were also at their best but sheer numbers on the other side drowned whatever they had to say, at least until Mailson Alves decided to stun the Blues with two commanding headers that put Chennaiyin into the lead.
The efforts put in by both sets of supporters into designing artistic yet prodigious banners were meritorious. But on a day when both teams were on the last step towards the ultimate glory, it was the noise levels that stood out for a neutral viewer.
It is not easy to get the whole stadium to chant in unison and despite the final result, the fans who turned up in Bengaluru showed what they are capable of. Every save by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was appreciated, Sunil Chhetri's runs were applauded and it was an incredible sight to behold.
Just as Chennaiyin deserve credit for not letting the persistent pressure of Bengaluru get to them in the first half, their supporters need to be applauded too. Eight minutes after Chhetri headed in the opening goal, Mailson brought them back into the game and the Super Machans' rapturous applause reverberated around the stadium.
And then he scored again at the stroke of half-time, sending the Machans into delirium.The support at the other end, however, never died.
India (@Goal_India) March 17, 2018
The chants 'When the Blues go marching in' and 'Hum Honge Kaamyaab' vibrated through the stadium as a dejected Bengaluru team mourned a disappointing defeat. The majority in the crowd spent the most of last 15 minutes of the game and post-match ceremony chanting 'F*** you referee' but it was just an emotional reaction to the events that unfurled in the match and nothing that calls for critique.
In the end, the Machans came out as victors from the stadium but the support for both teams never seemed to cease. One could've been forgiven to think that the game had plunged into the nervous scenarios of extra-time and penalties, judging by the noise inside the stadium long after the final whistle.
It was a night to remember for football fans in India.