The curious case of NorthEast United FC

The curious case of NorthEast United FC

Despite representing one of the few football hotbeds of the country, Northeast United FC seem to be struggling with identity and gone into slumber ever since the last edition of Indian Super League ended.

Back in 2014, when Indian Super League was launched, had someone told me that in four years, Northeast United FC will be the club to be struggling to create any kind of identity, I would have booted him out for being an ignorant of Indian football, after all the club represent northeast, one place that has been a constant supplier of national team footballers.

Yet four years down the line, the club has continued to be in look out for an identity of its own. It doesn’t help the fact that the club seem to be doing little to aid its own situation either. There were rumours of the club shutting down after another dismal season of Indian Super League and these rumours got more wind when the club failed to announce a single signing this year so far. While at the one end, clubs like Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters have already began their pre-seasons, NEUFC seem to be lost in transition. With I League club East Bengal, now with corporate backing, openly stating interest to join in to Indian Super League, IMG also has an option in replacing the club.

Although it is highly unlikely that the Highlanders would be shutting shop in just its fifth year despite its losses, the clubs poor performances, lack of proper management and poor fan engagement has definitely aided in reducing its ever dwindling fan base. Fans are the integral part of any club’s success and every clubs takes efforts in engaging with their fans, yet this has not been the case with the Highlanders.

Since the end of Super Cup in April – the last tournament ISL Clubs participated in, Clubs like Delhi Dynamos FC, Mumbai City FC, FC Pune City has been constantly active on social media with some kind of contest or NGO participations or Birthday wishes to its former and current players etc, these are the clubs that represent cities that are not known for its footballing culture. Down south, Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru FC have already started their pre-seasons while two time ISL champions Chennaiyin and ATK have been busy with signing or contract negotiations.

In the mean time, Northeast United FC has been dead silent with not even a single statement of any kind. The clubs last social media update was on March 17 congratulating Chennaiyin’s ISL title win and ever since then club has gone silent not even caring to update about the Super Cup or the recently concluded Hero Intercontinental Cup. The club has not announced a single signing as of now and its lazy approach to the league has been ridiculously repetitive. Last year, NEUFC were the last side to announce their foreign contingent signing and by the time the ISL started, it was evident that the club would be struggling again.

The poor performance led to deserting of fans as NorthEast United had one of the worst attendance record this season and with the lowest point being, when just 1121 attended a game. Recently, the club’s fans have also came out on social media with scathing remarks of clubs management asking them to answer their actions or to be clearer – lack of it.

One could say that the club represents a region that already has huge number of clubs in I league and other division with loyal fan bases making it difficult for NorthEast United to generate fans. But this is the same case with the ATK too; the club is struggling to create its own identity in a city that has two of the biggest clubs in India – Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Yet they have not been short of any efforts, ATK has regularly tried to engage with its fans, offering free tickets and signing big name players to lure in the fans. Unlike NEUFC, the reason for ATK’s number going down should be more attributed to controversial statements from its owners towards legacy clubs.

Football Clubs are nothing without its fans and while ATK have been trying their best to make amends and bring back their deserted fans, the highlanders are yet to show any signs of life. Sooner the Highlanders realize the importance of its fans, the better it would be for the clubs future.

– An opinion piece

Also Read: Transfer Rumours: Robinho to India! Is it a good idea??

Also Read: SAFF Championship: India to go with U23 squad, 4 U17 World Cup players called up for national camps

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