It took an entire day to figure out what really was drawing this crowd for an Indian team that has lost both its matches in the Champions Trophy. The mystery grew larger with the crowd when the optimistic fans turned up for Sardar Singh and his men’s last Pool B game against an unbeaten Dutch side.
It was a full house on Day One, a full house on Day Two; it was again a full house yesterday.
“Where do we get to see these back. Although I have read that the 2018 World Cup will be held in Bhubaneswar, people can expect that drawing crowds will not be a problem,” said Amrit, standing at the end of a serpentine queue outside the Kalinga Stadium.
But if you thought that crowds came only to cheer the Indians then that’s not exactly the case. Every match is cheered by a large number of people. Although the large crowds swell after dark – that’s 5.30 pm here —school and college children occupy the afternoon sessions.
“Although the school and college student come in large numbers in the afternoon, they come on tickets bought by sponsors to encourage hockey,” an official told Mirror.
However, tickets for the evening matches are sold for Rs 50 and Rs 100. “That’s sold out 100%. This has been an unexpected response. We have seen fans during Hockey India League, but this is just amazing,” the person at the ticket counter told us during a breather.
The on-field rivalry is off-field revelry for the crowd. They take sides whenever two teams are playing. Every team gets a home-like support. Except for India, where the crowd, despite their poor show, has been standing behind them. “It’s because we believe they will do well. After all they won the Asian Games gold and the test series in Australia,” said a fans waiting to get into the stadium before the India-Netherlands match.
Not just the fans, even the players are loving the response from the stands. “They have been a source of inspiration for most teams. They make team feel like we are playing at home,” said Netherlands Seve van Ass.