Chennai City's tryst with destiny in home away from home

Despite no active promotion, Chennai City FC has averaged over 5,000 supporters in its nine home matches in Coimbatore.

Chennai City FC is one win away from clinching its maiden I-League title.   -  S. Siva Saravanan

Despite missing out on the opportunity to seal the I-League title against Churchill Brothers in Goa last week, Chennai City FC coach Akbar Nawas felt the current situation allowed his side to win the trophy in front of its adopted fan base in Coimbatore.

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Chennai City is into the second year of its five-year lease period of hosting matches at the Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore, an 11-hour drive from Chennai. During the side’s season opener against the Indian Arrows, there were fliers stuck on the walls — en route to the venue — to promote the fixture. 

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Five months on, the club is one win away from clinching its maiden I-League title. But strangely one will not find any indication of the historic feat at stake once in the city.

The banner outside the stadium, with the details of the team’s home games this season, has no mention of the most important fixture of all — the March 9 contest against Minerva Punjab.

Ironically, there is a banner of Indian Super League club Chennaiyin FC, which forced the I-League club out of Chennai, by promoting its grass-root program next to it.

Fans will be allowed free entry for the Chennai City match and club owner Rohit Ramesh explains why the brains trust did not have to go out of its way to foster support for the side.  “We have an organic growth within the city (Coimbatore) because of the number of Tamil Nadu players playing for the club,” he points out.

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Fans will be allowed free entry for the Chennai City match on Saturday.   -  aashin prasad

 

Some of the local supporters have struck a chord with the team for the exact same reason. Calling themselves the ‘Roaring Lions’, these fans are pleased to see local players turning up for a Tamil Nadu club. At the final training session on the eve of the match, they cheered on their stars for one final hoorah on Saturday.

They are not ready to part with the franchisee even after its lease runs out. “On the final day, I will take the fight to the pitch asking them to stay,” Bharat, a student at PSG college, says light-heartedly.

Bharat and his friends are doing their bit by asking fellow college-goers to join them on the final day. They have been propping up the club on popular meme pages and on Instagram.

Despite no active promotion, the club has averaged over 5,000 supporters in its nine home matches.

And how does Nawas, who has given the city a free-flowing attacking football team to savour, feel about lifting the title at the adopted home? "Chennai is supporting us through the media and Coimbatore is supporting us by coming down to the stadium. I feel they (club and the city) are integrated into one.”

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