It was a sight to watch at Balewadi stadium on Monday night as FC Pune City opened their campaign by humbling Mumbai City FC 3-1. The fireworks lit up the sky and the supporters stayed at the stadium long after the match was over to applaud the performance of their team, which showed early signs of improvement after last year’s poor run.
The number game
There were as many as 8,734 people in attendance, filling nearly two third of the total capacity of the 11,900-seat stadium. The match broke last year’s attendance record of 8,427 people. The response of the home supporters was significant given the T20 match between India and South Africa under way during the same period at Barabati stadium in Cuttack. Though nearly 3,166 seats were vacant at the venue, the victory in the first game shall be sufficient for FC Pune City to cross last year’s average attendance of 7,859.
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Misal Pav gets better of vada pav
Over 150 supporters of Mumbai City FC had occupied a prime position opposite the VVIP and Orange Army stand of FC Pune City. The visitors were holding an interesting banner that read “vada pav is better than Misal Pav”. Talking about the concept of the banner, Rachit Aggarwal, one of the supports of Mumbai City FC, said, “Vada pav is associated with Mumbai, as Misal Pav is with Pune. Though both the cities are geographically closer to each other, the eating habits are different. To prove our supremacy,we thought of poking fun through the banner.” As Pune won the derby, the local supporters got a chance to hit back at the Mumbai supporters claiming the supremacy of Misal Pav.
The off-field improvement
The team’s outstanding performance on the pitch was matched by the off-field facilities like provision of drinking water, toilets and parking space at the stadium. The workers were making extra effort to maintain cleanliness throughout the stadium. “The main thing I was worried about was parking. As the stadium is located along the highway, it is difficult to find parking space nearby. I was prepared to park the car and walk to the stadium, but fortunately we got enough space to park the vehicle,” said Anagha Rao, an IT professional.
Football wins over cricket
Many missed India-South Africa cricket match to watch the football stars in action. Rohit Wagh, who was watching the match, while checking the cricket updates on his phone, said, “India couldn’t even reach 100. It was better to see Tuncay Sanli scoring a brace for Pune, rather than watching India crumble on television.” He added that football fans from the city – who support different European teams and follow their games – have been keenly following the developments at FC Pune City and a series of good results would increase the popularity of the game.
The Bollywood connection
The VVIP box at Balewadi stadium saw Hrithik Roshan, the co-owner of FC Pune City, and Rishi Kapoor, father of Ranbir Kapoor, who co-owns Mumbai City FC, cheering their respective teams. After each goal and save, the camera turned to the celebrity owners who waved back at the crowd and cheered the team to perform better. Roshan joined the supporters of Orange Army Stand in chanting the club slogan ‘Kar Punekar’ as team got into a potentially decisive lead. After the match, Roshan walked to the pitch to congratulate FC Pune City players and thanked fans for watching the match.