B-Stand Blues: Know the Inside World of Chennaiyin FC Supporters

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Indian Super League, the cash-rich glamour baby has started amidst much glitz and glamour with promises of more compact competition in it’s latest edition. In the last three years, the tournament has been able to expand the game in places and to people where probably football was probably not in people’s priority list of sports.

Although, being outsiders we only see the activities of the franchises but the work-force behind them, the supporters have also shown their attachment to these newly born clubs or franchises. If someone sits to think about what have been the positives of ISL, then one point which inevitably would strike is the emergence of a widespread fanclub-culture across the land.

A crop of new fanclubs has come into the scene of Indian football and creating a prominent impression. One such notable fanclub is the B-Stand Blues of Chennaiyin FC.

LNTUP decided to peep into the inside world of the B-Stand Blues and sat for a chat with the BSB Chief Balaji Rajkumar.

#LNTUP: Tell us about how it all started? The first days of your fanclub.

●B-Stand Blues: The foundations of the supporters’ club were laid in season 1 of ISL. A close knit of friends, supporting different European teams got together at the East End for the first season at Chennai and we used to chant together and make small banners for the team. Though we got attention from the players, especially from Bojan, we believed the location wasn’t effective for our chants to be heard by the players. That’s how we moved to B-Stand, so that we sit behind the team’s dug out and back them throughout the game. That’s where started the whole supporters’ club building process. Instead of recognising each other as a guy from XYZ-European supporters’ club of Chennai, we planned to drop our European Identity and branded ourselves as the B-Stand Blues.

#LNTUP: What are your projects now? In other words where would you imagine to see B-Stand Blues in 5 years from now?

●B-Stand Blues: Our supporters’ club has been constantly looking to involve the European fans into the local club scene. We have been constantly working with the heads of these supporters’ clubs to increase the fan base of Chennaiyin FC. We have our own U15 Football team from the underprivileged that we help to participate in tournaments across the city. Our major cause is to promote the chanting culture associated with football. Chennai being a cricket city, is unknown to the fan culture associated with Football. We want to involve everyone in the stadium with us. 5 years down the line, we want to see every single people embrace this culture and 20,000 fans across the stadium chanting in unison.

#LNTUP: Where is your fanclub different from others?

●B-Stand Blues : As a supporters club, I believe we are very different from the way we work, compared to others in India. We do not take money from the members. Monetarily, we do not expect anything from the members. Tickets wise, BSB strongly discourages the use of Free tickets. While other fan clubs might try to improve their branding by sale of merchandise, etc, we believe in promoting the club’s merchandise. For eg, we had a lot of requests for custom made t-shirts for the supporters club, but all the requests were turned down and we asked them to buy the club jersey that was on sale. We believe if we do not pay for the club, then who will? We want Chennaiyin FC to be here for the next 100 years and longer and we’ll do everything as fans for that to happen.

#LNTUP: Chennai is known to be a cricket loving city. Being the supporters’ club of Chennaiyin FC, how difficult it was to build a committed fan base initially?

●B-Stand Blues : Unlike Cricket, the atmosphere is always buzzing in Football. You have loud chants in the terraces, huge flags and tifos on display and the ruthlessness of the home supporters against the rivals. People used to look at us weirdly when we used to chant. When we unveiled a huge “CHAMPIONS” banner, we had requests from people sitting on chairs asking us to go elsewhere and not disturb them. It took a lot of time to make people understand that contributing financially to the club is important. But things are changing now. 3 seasons on, with attendances of over 20k in each season, the club is growing, the culture is changing. In a few years, we believe Chennaiyin Fans not only at the B-Stand but elsewhere too, would embrace the fan culture.

#LNTUP: Besides the on-the-field activities, tell about something about your activities off-the field?

●B-Stand Blues: Off the field, we generally conduct meetings, tournaments and banner painting sessions. We also attend major European screenings and promote the cause of supporting Chennaiyin FC. We conduct contests regularly on our page and we’ll soon be opening our own fantasy league online with amazing prizes up for grabs.

#LNTUP: Do B-Stand Blues fanclub allow overseas membership?

●B-Stand Blues: As of now, no. We do not take memberships from overseas.

#LNTUP: Are there any new things that you will try out this season that you did not do in the previous editions?

●B-Stand Blues : This season, for the first time we have got season tickets sorted from the club exclusively for the B-Stand Blues. So the fan engagement is high compared to last season. We’ll be unveiling tifos and banners that probably have never been tried by an Indian Supporters Club before. We have also planned for pre-match corteos. Our member has grown considerably and we expect the chants to be louder than it has ever been in Chennai.

#LNTUP: Nice! Final question, maybe a bit hypothetical one. How do you see the future fanclub culture in India?

●B-Stand Blues: The fanclub culture is growing and that too at an amazing pace. Take Blue Pilgrims for eg. We never had a supporters club for the Indian Team all these years, but all of a sudden you have more than 1000 in a stand cheering for the team as a group. People travelled from Chennai, Salem, Hyderabad to be a part of this group. You have the East Bengal Ultras, West Block Blues, Manjappada, Orange Army, MCFCSC. Fans are travelling now to away games. 3 Years back, who would’ve expected this?! We have fans travelling from Chennai to the India games across the country. It’s just a matter of time before this trend explodes.