Indians love football. Then why are local clubs struggling?

Local football clubs, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Goa, Kerala, Foreign players, Coach
On an average, a football club requires ₹12-15 lakh to keep the club running after paying the footballers and coaches, spending on sports gear and arranging tournaments. Photo: Prabhu Mallikarjunan

At Indira's Nagar's Doff pub, a group of four young men are conspicuous by their presence. Dressed in co-ordinated outfits — stonewashed denims and bright red Manchester United jerseys — they are among the regular customers frequenting the popular sports bar in Bengaluru every time there is an English Premier League (EPL) match on TV.

One of them is Andy, originally from Delhi. When 35-year-old Anand left home for Bengaluru in 2014, he first got himself a job in the IT sector and then became a ManU fan. Coming from a cricket-crazy Delhi, it was Bengaluru which introduced him to the adrenaline rush from football and beer. His new city and friends he met over football games in front of huge LCD screens also gave him a new name — Andy. "I realised football fun is big here. All that I knew of football was that some chaps from Bengal, Northeast or Goa play and worship it more than cricket," he says.

"My friends here told me there are so many homegrown football clubs in Bengaluru which many like me never knew before."

Listening to Andy's eulogy to the beautiful game, one would imagine that all is not unwell with football in India and fans are still rooting for homegrown teams. However, the truth is far from that.

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