Before the 2019-20 season of ISL began, two clubs unfortunately had to change their bases. One was Delhi Dynamos, who were rebranded as Odisha FC and the other was FC Pune City, which is now Hyderabad FC.
The sorrow of watching your club shut down is inexplicable. But then there was this flip side to the situation- a football club in a new city with a totally different fan culture. For the football fans in Hyderabad, it was a very exciting moment.
“Words can’t express that feeling. The prospect of Hyderabad having an ISL team was there in the news for a long time. I thought the league would be expanded for our entry. But unfortunately, it was at the expense of FC Pune City being dissolved. No football fan should ever be going through something of that sort. After all, fans pour so much into the club!” said Tarun Aritakula, a beloved member of Deccan Legion who agreed to talk us through their journey.
Football is nothing without a fan base who regularly attends the stadium and cheers their club no matter what. Going to the stadium, attending the home matches and chanting along with fellow fans who are a part of the fan base is what makes football perfect.
It’s the same with Hyderabad FC. As soon as the club was launched officially, few die-hard fans started a fan base called Deccan Legion. Starting a fan base for a new football club is always hard in a country where cricket is like a religion.
So how did Deccan Legion start?
“Arun and Ashwin have been ardent Indian football fans for a long time. They decided to form a fan club when HFC was announced. They tried to spread the word in a few Indian football groups and had around 8 people for the first meet-up. One fine day, the players were promoting the club at a leading sports bar in the city where a PL fan club group were having their screening. We spoke to them and got them on board with us. Later we got other PL/European supporter clubs as well and took their inputs to push the fan club forward.”
Just like all the other football fan bases, Deccan Legion has also done a few activities to attract more fans and they are planning on doing many other activities in the future.
“We had people who were into logistics, people who ran our social media channels, people to design our social media content as well as banners, heads of European fan clubs in the city and so on. We created a website. We guess we are the first Indian fan club to come up with a website in such a short period. It helped us reach a wider audience. We got in touch with college ambassadors across the city to spread the word in their respective colleges. We did giveaways on our channels with prediction contests.”
The best part about having a fan base is enjoying all the matches by chanting and celebrating with them in the stadium and also during the screenings of away matches.
“For someone who has watched football on TV all his life and supported a team sitting on a couch, it’s an incredible experience! Nothing comes close to cheering on your team from the stands! Still remember our first home game against KBFC like it was yesterday! The hype around it, the anxiety before the game, going a goal down, coming back to win it 2-1, the celebrations after that. It was astonishing! We’ll miss not being at the stadium this season very badly.”, said Tarun as he remembered the memories of the season gone by.
Away matches are as much fun as the home matches because you are dominated by the opposite fan base but still, you want to chant as strong as possible and support the club. Tarun and the Deccan Legion are no different. “The away games were even more fun. I was fortunate enough to go to both Mumbai and Bengaluru! Thanks to our club who provided transport so that we could experience what it’s like being an away fan.”
The best thing about having a fan base is that you make lifelong memories of all the matches by experiencing them with people who are just like you. People who are full of enthusiasm and confidence.
“Coming to DL, I think every game had its fair share of best moments. But the away games were the pick. Travelling along with your fellow fans, singing, chanting, discussing football makes it a whole lot worthwhile journey.”
Hyderabad had a rich football culture once upon a time. It was during the 1950s when the Indian Football team had accomplished a lot under Hyderabadi coach Syed Abdul Rahim. People of Hyderabad have forgotten the legacy of Hyderabadis in Indian Football.
“The lack of prominent clubs from the city probably was one of the reasons why there wasn’t a huge fan following for the game in the city but most of us chose it as a sport to play. Now almost all major European clubs have supporter groups in the cities and screenings for their games have attendances not less than 200,” Tarun explained.
People of Hyderabad followed the Indian National team as well as the ISL even before HFC came into existence. The numbers weren’t as high as now, but people did know about Indian Football.
“The AFC Challenge Cup was held here in Hyderabad in 2008. There’s a lot of difference in supporting your hometown team that plays in a top league than following a league that has teams from your neighbouring states participating.”
The season was quite dismal for the Nizams. They won only 2 matches and lost 12. It was a bad first season where they tried their best but with injuries and a short pre-season they ended up last on the table. It was disappointing for the fans too, but they are still optimistic.
“Yes! It wasn’t an ideal start to our ISL journey. But considering the off-field troubles we had in trying to move everything to Hyderabad in such a short period, it was understandable.”
Even though the club had a disappointing season, the fans are positive about the upcoming season where Albert Roca was going to be their manager. Every Indian Football fan knows the achievements of Roca when he coached Bengaluru FC. But Albert Roca ended his contract with the Nizams on mutual termination and joined FC Barcelona as a fitness coach.
“Every one of us was disappointed when the news broke out initially and they had every reason to. But if European heavyweights like Barca come calling, you just have to respect his choice. It’s so deserving for the hard work he has done. We fully trust Manuel Márquez Roca as much as we trusted Albert. We feel the club is in safe hands now!” Tarun said.
No matter what happens, every football fan is always optimistic about the next season. That is what separates football from other sports. It’s the bond between the club and the fans. The optimistic nature of the fans is the only thing which keeps football alive.
“The team’s shaping up very well. We’ve got the Spiderman Subrata, Narzary and Chinglensana. Chianese, Victor, Sastre give us that much-needed quality we expect from foreign players. We’ve signed youngsters Sweden Fernandes & Lalawmpuia as well. We feel we are trying to build a team for the future with the right mixture of senior pros and budding talent,” said Tarun when asked about his thoughts about the team for the upcoming season.
The future is bright for Hyderabad FC. The club entered into a landmark partnership with German giants Borussia Dortmund and the fans are looking forward to good times for the club.
“We also hope the partnership with Dortmund is fruitful. We expect them to develop our grassroots program and give us insights about the technical aspects of football. I’d crave for a top 4 finish. But I’d be happy with a top 5 or top 6 finish. We’ve done decent business in the transfer market. Now fingers crossed for the onfield results!”
We wish Hyderabad FC best of luck for the season and hope that the club and fans have reasons to celebrate for at the end of the season.