As the new seasons of the English Premier League and La Liga begin, fan clubs of the footballing giants gear up to see who wins the top prize
After a period of lull for the lovers of the beautiful game, footballing action returned with the start of the Premier League on August 11. With the La Liga and all the other leagues returning this week, the footballing season kicks off full throttle. After a lot of chopping and changing of all the squads across Europe, the teams are finally looking in shape at the start of the campaign.
However, the excitement is not only confined to Europe, but has whooshed its way to the city of Delhi thousands of kilometres away. Like the rest of the world, the nation’s capital too gears up for the new football season, courtesy the different fans and fan clubs of the European giants.
After a thumping title win last year under Pep Guardiola, Manchester City look to repeat their phenomenal success last season, with “one of best teams in Europe at the moment”, according to Ankit Sharma, chairman of the Manchester City Delhi Supporters Club. “We have the best manager in the world and one of the best teams in the world. No one can stop us from becoming champions once again”, he says.
Asked who the MVP of the season will be for them, Sharma says, “We have a number of great players like Aguero, Jesus, Sterling. But the main man will have to be Kevin De Bruyne. He was the pivot of the team last season, and after an excellent World Cup for Belgium, he will definitely be the main man for us”, adds Sharma.
City also began their campaign on August 12 in emphatic fashion after they beat Arsenal 2-0. “I rate the team this season a 9.5/10, and we will even win the Champion’s League”, says a confident Sharma. The fan club organizes screenings in different pubs across the city namely Studio XO Bar in South Extension-2, Raasta Delhi in Green Park and 38 Barracks in Connaught Place.
However, according to Sharma, the team that poses a threat to Manchester City’s title challenge is Liverpool. Harshit Bassi, president of DelhiKop, the official Liverpool Fan Club of Delhi, says, “This season we sprang a surprise in the transfer market by being the highest spenders in the EPL. We have plugged quite a few gaps that we lacked last season. Jurgenn Klopp has a great attack, a solid midfield and two rocks in the defence in the form of Lovren and Van Dijk”, says Bassi.
“Alisson has been a great addition, as goalkeeping was an area where we were seriously lacking, and we all know what happened with Karius at the Champion’s League Final last season”, he adds. “We have a pretty good squad this season, and if we overcome our mental hurdles, we will challenge for the title”, claims Bassi. “Our screenings are usually organised in Court Bar in Connaught Place or 100% Rock in Vasant Kunj”, says Bassi, who claims that an average of 70-80 people attend their screenings. “ We’ve even had a screening where there were 800 people attending it”, he adds. Liverpool made a rollicking start to the campaign with an emphatic 4-0 win on West Ham United.
Liverpool’s biggest Premier League rivals Manchester United have the most number of supporters in the world. In Delhi, too, the scene is no different, as Manchester United Fan Club-Delhi (MUFCD). “We have 3,800 likes on our Facebook page and we enjoy an average of 300-400 people per screening”, says Paras Sharma, the president of MUSCD. The club, though, have had a pretty average transfer window, signing only Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant. However, the hopes are still high for Paras. “We will definitely finish in the top 2”, he says, adding that Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez will be the players to look forward to this season. The screenings of the MUFCD usually happen in Route 04 or Junkyard Café, both in Connaught Place.
Manchester United too, despite all the criticism began with a pretty dominating display in their 2-1 victory over Leicester City on August 11.
The London Clubs too, enjoy quite a good fanbase in Delhi. According to Sidharth Sharma, the Vice President of the Capital Blues, the official Delhi Chelsea supporters’ club, “We have around 3,000 registered members with the Capital Blues, and we usually get around 150-200 people at an average in our screenings.” Talking about the squad, Sharma says, “With a new manager, Maurizzio Sarri and an impressive transfer window everyone is quite positive about the season and looking forward to the season ahead. Even though the competition is really tough this time, we are positive that Chelsea will finish in the top two this season”, says Sidharth, who thinks that Eden Hazard will be their MVP for the 2018/19 season. The Capital Blues organize their screenings mainly in Glued, Noida and Studio XO Bar, South Extension-2. Chelsea began their campaign with a 3-0 win against Huddersfield.
Arsenal Delhi, the official supporters’ group of the other big London club, Arsenal, has around 150-250 members at an average per screening, which happens usually at Yes Minister. “Depending on the scale of the match and how the team is doing, the numbers increase or decrease”, says Shalin Sharma, president of the Arsenal Delhi. “This season will be a transitional one for us. The new manager Unai Emery has big shoes to fill, and the team will take time to adjust. I feel the second half of the season will be much better for us, as by then we will have a settled squad”, says Sharma, who expects a top four finish for the Gunners. Arsenal started their campaign on a bitter note, with a 2-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City.
Like the English clubs, the La Liga clubs from Spain too have their fair share of fans in the city. “We have around 700-800 members and an average of 70-80 members at an average in our screenings, which are usually held at Yes Minister”, says Mayank Dixit, the social media manager of the FC Barcelona Supporters’ Club Delhi. Speaking about the club’s chances this season, a highly optimistic Mayank claims, “We will win the treble this season”. “Barcelona have a very strong team and we will not only be the Spanish, but also the European champions”, claims Dixit, who says that like all other seasons, Lionel Messi will be their go-to man this season too.
The biggest talking point of the summer transfer window was the transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus, after nearly a decade at Real Madrid. On a chat with Patriot on Facebook, a representative at the Pena Madridista Delhi, the official Real Madrid Supporters’ group in the capital, says that Ronaldo leaving will leave ample opportunities for the youngsters to shine this season, especially Vinicious Jr., the Brazillian wonderkid who joined the Galacticos this season. The support in the city for them too is quite high, claims the representative. “For every screening, there are more than 100 fans at an average, and for the high stake matches like the Champions’ League Final, we have around 600 fans present”, he adds. The screenings happen in 38 Barracks, Connaught Place.
While Barcelona kick off their campaign against Alaves on August 19, Real Madrid face off against Getafe in their opening fixture on August 20.