ISL 2019-20: Finally, football comes home for Odisha FC

Odisha FC has not exactly fired in ISL with nine points in nine matches, but at the half-way stage, there is plenty to look forward to as the team finally comes home.

Odisha FC had to shift its first three games to Pune because of the delay in the completion of the upgradation work at Kalinga Stadium for the U-17 Women’s World Cup 2020.   -  ISL Media

Odisha FC has not exactly fired in the Indian Super League (ISL) with nine points in nine matches, but at the half-way stage, there is plenty to look forward to.

One of the two new entries in the ISL, Odisha is finally coming home. With football quickly rising in popularity in Bhubaneswar, Odisha’s debut could not have come at a more opportune time, especially for defender Shubham Sarangi, whose parents are from Odisha.

“I have never stayed in Odisha but that is where my roots from. I am looking forward to play in the state. A lot of local people have come up and told me that they want to see me in the stadium to back me. In the past four-five years, the Odisha government has been putting in a lot of effort in bringing a sporting culture in the state, which is a good thing. That motivates the entire team,” said Sarangi.

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The Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar has witnessed good support for games hosted by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in recent years. In the last two years, it has been home to AIFF's developmental side Indian Arrows, in addition to hosting the 2019 Women's Gold Cup, Indian Women's League and the Super Cup.

In the past, the state of Odisha has produced several footballers -- from former Mohun Bagan player Rajendra Prasad Singh to more recently, youngsters like Rakesh Oram and Bekey Oram.

Like fellow ISL club Jamshedpur FC, Odisha FC is also set to be based out of a small town, rather than a big city. Playing football in a closely-knit community can bring people together to enjoy the game, attracting more crowd into the stadium and as a result, achieving bigger in-stadia support.