All three — Persib Bandung (2 million+), Sriwijaya FC (6.4 lakh+), Persija Jakarta (3.9 lakh+) — are from Indonesia. East Bengal’s page had more than 3.5 lakh back then. On Tuesday, the number had swelled to 4.66 lakh.
East Bengal’s page is handled by the company that bankrolls the football team. “Facebook has great potential to reach out to fans and attract new ones. That is why we regularly update our page and try to make it as interactive as possible,” said a representative of the team that handles the page. The representative did not want to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
East Bengal fans living abroad can now easily follow the latest news about their club and even find live streaming links to watch some matches online.
Speaking to HT from Oslo on Facebook, Nalinava Sengupta said: “I am an East Bengal supporter since 1979 and used to be a regular at their matches. Even after moving abroad in 2005, I haven’t missed much thanks to social media. The Facebook page keeps me up to date with the latest news, transfer gossip and I can also watch matches online.”
Besides club pages, other pages related to Indian football also has a sizeable membership.
Twitter too has accounts of Indian clubs and others dedicated to Indian football. The numbers here are smaller possibly because Indians still use Twitter less.
HOW IT STARTED
Following domestic football through social media started in 2007 on Orkut when a community named ‘Indian football fans’ was formed to discuss everything and anything related to the sport in India.
Membership kept increasing and that laid the foundation for more such communities. As Indians shifted from Orkut to Facebook, the platform for following Indian football also changed but the passion only got enhanced.
Additionally, social media even allows players of past and present to interact with fans on a daily basis. India goalkeeper Subrata Pal recently said in an interview “It’s heartening to see the newer generation follow the I-League on social networking websites.”
Archrivals Mohun Bagan (14000+ likes) and some older clubs haven’t gone the East Bengal way but newer clubs such as Pune FC (30000+ likes), Shillong Lajong (10000+ likes) and United Sikkim (3000+ likes) are using social media very seriously.
The I-League and other domestic tournaments continue to struggle to get fans to the stadiums. On the social media, the opposite is true.