Intercontinental Cup 2023: Sunil Chhetri urges Bhubaneswar ‘please come watch us play’; not so happy with crowd strength

Over the last two games, when India played Mongolia (June 9) and Vanuatu (June 12) in the competition, the fan footfall was registered at 5500-odd on each matchday at the Kalinga Stadium, which has a capacity of 15,000.


Sunil Chhetri

Odisha, known for its love for hockey and hosted back-to-back hockey World Cups and numerous international tournaments, is hosting the Indian football team for the first time. Despite the crowd turnout, fans could be heard chanting Chhetri’s name throughout the game as well.

The skipper was given a standing ovation as well when the 38-year-old skipper was subbed off after scoring his 86th international and solitary goal in the late win over Vanuatu.

Post the game the captain also celebrated with the fans as he performed the iconic Viking Thunder Claps with them. Sunil Chhetri said he was touched by the adoration shown by the Bhubaneswar crowd but couldn’t hide his disappointment at the fact that more than half of the stand was empty.

“I think numbers are great but I would love to see more (crowd) at the stadium,” Sunil Chhetri said during the post-match press conference. “I do understand that Odisha have gone through something really sad recently (referring to the Balasore train accident last week) and my heart goes out to every one of them who has suffered.

“But if anyone who can and has time, please come and watch, please come and support. Not because I am asking, because the country is playing. The boys are playing quite well. Not sure if everyone thinks we are going to win but we are going to give our best. So if you can, because we are playing in three days again, please come and watch us play, it’s enjoyable.”

World No. 101 India will be next face off against higher-ranked Lebanon (99) in their last group game on June 15. The match has little consequences for the hosts as they have already qualified for the final but their Arab rivals have everything to play for as they need at least a draw to progress to the final.

The final is slated on June 18 thereafter as all the matches are being played at the Kalinga Stadium.

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