KOCHI: Another Indian Super League (ISL) season is here. And Manjappada -- the fans' community of Kerala Blasters FC (KBFC) - are pumping up their activities on and off the stands for the latest campaign. Their encouragement: Manjappada were named the 'Fan Club of the Year' at the Indian Sports Honours event held in Mumbai recently. ISL 2017-18 will be different from previous years as the league will employ a longer format with the inclusion of two new clubs -- former I-League champions Bengaluru FC and the TATA-owned Jamshedpur FC. Blasters are two-time runners-up and have former Manchester United assistant coach Rene Meulensteen as their gaffer.
The 'Yellow Army' are out to make Kochi the loudest crowd in the country. While the KBFC players were sweating it out on the training ground, their fans were working throughout the preseason to make their support more organised. Chants and anthems are being introduced to provide a European style stadium atmosphere for ISL games at Kochi. "Manjappada stands for Indian football and KBFC," said Manu Prathab, a member. "We will be present wherever there is a match involving the national football team, be it at the under -17, under -19 or the senior level."
The group was initiated by Subin Mathew in May 2014 as a social media page. At the Sports Honours event conducted by the Virat Kohli Foundation and Sanjiv Goenka, Manjappada was nominated along with the Bengaluru FC fan group - West Block Blues; Royal Challengers' Bangalore fan group - Namma Team; and Indian cricket team fan club - Bharat Army.The group is most active on Facebook and has its own WhatsApp groups functioning in all 14 districts as well as cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad and New Delhi. They also have their presence in the North East, apart from a global wing which cheered club legend Iain Hume while he was playing in Canada and the Indian team when they played in Macau.
Manjappada currently have more than 15,000 active followers on social media. Every district wing has a governing body and the district core committee does all the future planning of the fan club. Manjappada holds a good relation with the Blasters management and the fan club is informed of all KBFC promotional activities.Manjappada also conducts social welfare activities and charity programmes at Kasargod, Kannur and Bengaluru. 'Pattini Illa Pattanam' was a welfare activity conducted by the fan club in Thiruvananthapuram recently. And the club celebrated their win at the Sports Honours in style as they conducted a programme in association with the Wheel Chair Association in the state capital.
"It's a proud moment for us to know that our stadium has one of the best average attendances in the world -- that too in a country like India where football is still on the path towards growth," said Eldhose Scariya, the president of Manjappada. A mass gathering of the fan club is being organised at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium here ahead of Friday's season opener against Atletico de Kolkata.