MUMBAI — Indian football team skipper Sunil Chhetri has welcomed the overwhelming fan support from across the country after his emotional message on social media urging to back the team up went viral.
"Our team's pride and passion to represent the country is at an all-time high considering the nationwide outpour of love and support over the past week," Chhetri told IANS in a statement, after the narrow loss to New Zealand on Thursday.
"We are motivated to give it our very best on the pitch for our country, our fans and emerge victorious. I am hopeful that this excitement and energy will continue throughout the tournament," he added.
Chhetri scored during India's 1-2 loss to New Zealand in their final league encounter of the ongoing Intercontinental Cup, in front of a packed Mumbai Football Arena crowd, who braved heavy downpour to cheer the team.
Despite the loss, India is guaranteed a spot in the June 10 final, having finished the league stage on top of the table with six points.
The Kiwis too, have the same points but a superior goal difference helped the hosts remain on top.
Thanking the fans for their overwhelming support, the Indian captain said this was just the start of good times for the national football team.
"We believe that this is the start of an era where people will change their mindsets and come out in full support of all the sports that are represented by India's national team," he said.
Chhetri also thanked radio channel — Radio City — who took up the onus of evoking a sense of patriotism amongst the fans by initiating #StudioNahiStadiumSeLIVE to ensure maximum support and turnout during Thursday's tie.
"Radio City's initiative to cover us live throughout the day from Mumbai is a very kind gesture for the team and I thank them for taking up our cause," the skipper said.