Celebrate the club’s triumph in its debut season in the I-League

For an hour on Tuesday afternoon, Bangalore’s central streets throbbed to a very different beat. In a procession unlike any the city has ever witnessed, several hundred football fans bounced their way through Kamaraj Road, M.G. Road and Commissariat Road as Bengaluru FC’s I-League winning squad paraded the trophy in an open top bus.

Having secured the title a week ago, the team arrived here after victory in its final league encounter in Goa on Monday. The bus set off from near Army Public School, before winding its way to the Bangalore Football Stadium.

En route, players signed autographs, posed for ‘selfies’, danced and sang along. There were posters, banners, and innumerable blue shirts. Then there were the chants, borrowed from the terraces of English grounds and rendered with great fervour all season. “Westwood’s blue army” drew a smile and a wave from the head coach, Ashley Westwood.

At one point, the India captain, Sunil Chhetri, passed the trophy over the side of the vehicle to a group of fans and held it aloft with them. “You guys are the best fans in the world,” he said later at the stadium.

What began as a crowd of a hundred had swollen to over five times that size towards the end. Such scenes are uncommon in Indian sport and inconceivable in football. “I’ve never seen anything like this; this is a mad crowd,” the defender Vishal Kumar, a native of the city, remarked.

An old-timer at the Bangalore Football Stadium admitted that things had changed. “This is a completely different demographic, the sort you wouldn’t expect to come to the stadium before,” he said.

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