Playing for a good cause

While fans cannot engage with football players in stadiums, fan clubs in India are extending a helping hand to people during the pandemic

The Coronavirus and its subsequent lockdown has forced sports to go behind closed doors. Fans are not being allowed in stadiums and until a vaccine is found, it is unlikely that fans will be able to engage with live sports.

However, football fan clubs across the country have not stopped their activities. Screenings are being conducted online, fan meets through zoom meetings. But what really matters is that these clubs have taken initiatives to engage with people in the most noble way possible.

The Manchester United Foundation, the social wing of the Manchester United football club teamed up with its supporters’ clubs around the world. Each of the 240 Manchester United supporters’ clubs across the globe will get up to £1,000 to help youth-focussed charities.

Manchester United contacted Kolkata Manchester United Supporters’ Club to find a suitable charity to feed poor children so that they could transfer funds to them through the supporters’ club. “We researched and decided to go with the Hope Kolkata Foundation, an NGO,” supporters’ club president Soumya Dasgupta said.

The supporters’ club had got in touch with the NGO to know about their operations and communicated it to Manchester United. “They also did the necessary checks on their part and gave us the green light. The funds will help many underprivileged children of Bengal as Marcus Rashford’s initiative did for kids in the UK,” Dasgupta, a scientist presently working in London, said.

United will give Rs 50,000 to the charity through the Kolkata Red Army. More so, if the supporters’ club could raise funds on their own up to Rs 1 lakh, United would match the amount and give it to the NGO.

“In that way, the charity will get Rs 2 lakh. That’s why we are also trying hard to raise funds through our campaign ‘Be the Local Rashford’. We have planned to organise online quizzes, online games and live screenings of the remaining Manchester United matches of the season. The participation fees will go to the charity,” he said.

The campaign has been named after 22-year-old Manchester United Marcus Rashford, who arranged daily meals for over a 1 lakh underprivileged kids in England, even earning the title of MBE from the Queen in the process.

Representatives of the Arsenal Supporters’ Club Kerala donated Rs 1 lakh to the CMDRF to help the state fight the pandemic.

Arsenal Kerala Supporters club handing over a cheque of Rs 1 lakh to the Education Minister PHOTO: AKSC

“We initially thought we couldn’t do this because of everyone’s financial situation. A few members of the group put forward the idea and we launched a campaign officially. We spread the message in all our groups and there were a lot of youngsters who took it up actively,” Sandeep, a senior member of the Arsenal fan group said to the press.

“Keeping aside all the rivalries, there is a bond between fans of different football clubs. Ultimately, football unites us and it has given us an opportunity to do something useful,” he added.

In Kolkata, Debu Dutta, a bereaved Mohun Bagan fan, donated the money to victims of Cyclone Amphan that he kept aside for the shradhh ceremony of his late father, a gesture that the club’s top officials including Srinjoy Bose acknowledged.

East Bengal Real Power (EBRP), a fan forum of the historic club also organised a collection drive for the Government fund and brought in nearly Rs 72,000 in just four days. They also helped out a couple of ardent East Bengal supporters who needed financial help. These are proof that football fan clubs, when dedicated and united for a cause, can yield effective results.

EBRP, an East Bengal Fan Club, raised Rs 72,000 to help people suffering from Covid and the lockdown PHOTO: EBRP

Liverpool fans across India were delighted as the Reds finally clinched the Premier League title last season. The Liverpool supporters’ club in Mangalore took the celebration to another level when they started feeding the needy in their city in March,  continuing it till now.

The money collected from the Reds in the city was enough to fund the catering of 900 packets of cooked food which was then supplied to hospitals, orphanages, old age homes and the homeless in the city.

Fan clubs of Tottenham Hotspur in Bengaluru and Kerala also did their part. Bangalore Spurs delivered food packets for the poor in association with the city police. Kerala Spurs donated a Smart TV to an underprivileged family so that kids can attend online classes.

Manjappada, the supporters of Indian Super League (ISL) club Kerala Blasters, has taken an extra step and continued their tradition of helping the society and contributing for a cause.

After the supply of relief materials during the floods that hit Kerala two years ago, the Yellow Army fan group is now organising a Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) video game tournament – to enter the competition, the players were asked to show a donation receipt of a minimum of Rs 100 to either the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund or the PM Cares fund.

So, while these fans are divided due to their club allegiances, they prove the fact that sport does unite everyone, especially when it is for a good cause.

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