In a country that is obsessed with cricket, it may come as a surprise to some that Premiership football in India is actually very keenly followed. Indian football fans are keen avid supporters of the English Premier League, with Saturday afternoon’s seeing all the matches beamed live across India, and watched with just as much passion as in the English grounds themselves. As the game grasps more of a global hold, the sight of Premiership shirts worn in India is increasingly becoming common, and if you happen to be in Mumbai, the chances are that the colours of Arsenal will be visible along the city’s corniche or further away in Juhu beach. It is here that in 2006 the Arsenal Mumbai Fan Club (AMFC) was founded.

Recognition

One of the founders of AMFC is Saurabh Penkar, and he told Arsenal-talk of the first beginnings of a club that now numbers at over 200. “ We started out through a social networking sight, and the aim was to bring together Gooners from across Mumbai. The city has it’s share of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool supporters, but the AMFC was the first Premiership supporters club to get recognition,” and continues Saurabh, the members don’t stop at just watching the Gunners in action.

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Beach beginnings

“I was always a fan of Thierry Henry and that inspired us to give our passion for Arsenal an official platform. On 23rd Dec 2006 we had our first football meeting on Juhu beach, for a beach football tournament. This started the club getting noticed and we became famous among the City’s Gooners, with a trend started which is still being followed. Since that week we have held over 140 football meetings week in and week out. On these Sundays we form teams amongst ourselves and play competitive football, which is usually followed with discussion on past or forthcoming Arsenal matches. ”

Mumbai Gooners win

Mention the other big Premiership supporters clubs, and Saurabh quickly points the conversation to a recently held Premiership fans’ tournament. “We entered in a tournament which comprised of MUMFC (Manchester United Mumbai Fan Club), CFCM (Chelsea fan club Mumbai), LFCM( Liverpool fan club Mumbai). We had 3 matches against each other, 9 in total, and we finished 1st in this league.” And guess who took the honours for the tournament’s top marksman? Yes, that’s right Saurabh himself.

As the news of the passionate Mumbai Gooners spread, media recognition from ESPN and Times of India followed. Members have been on trips of a lifetime to the Emirates Stadium, and the association with London is strong.

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Flourished

Despite the distance from the UK however, Saurabh and his fellow Mumbai Gooners have watched intently as Arsene Wenger’s young side has flourished.Being thousands of miles from north London poses no real obstacle to these passionate Arsenal fans. ” The best thing about being a Gooner abroad is that you try to play the game like them and you know even if you play half that way you are going to beat the opposition. We can always brag to other club supporters about how beautifully and how free flowing football we play, its such a joy.” But observes Saurabh, there is a minor downfall too.

Dream

” The worst thing you can say is that most of us dream of being at the Emirates stadium, meeting with Arsenal players etc. We cant show them how much we love them and tell them that there are bunch of Gooners in here in India who support them, irrespective of them winning or loosing. If being a Gooner was best thing to happen to me, then being a part of this club and having done my bit for this club is next best thing to happen in my life.”

It is assuring to know that on another continent, come match days, the Mumbai Gooners will always be watching.

Visit the Mumbai Gooners website here.