Liverpool FC is delighted to announce that not one but two supporters' club in India have today been granted official status.
The news that both Delhi and Mumbai have become the first ever official Liverpool supporters' clubs in the country is a further boost for fans after the club last year became the first and only team in England to launch a dedicated social media channel for Indian supporters - @LFCIndia.
To find out what today's announcement means to those involved, Liverpoolfc.com spoke to Kaushal Goyal from Delhi and Mangesh Nadkarni and Tanay Ganatra from Mumbai and asked them what how it feels to be granted official status by the club.
Mangesh Nadkarni, Mumbai Supporters' Club: "Probably words wouldn't do justice to how we all feel about getting recognised by the club. We did try to get the Mumbai Supporters' Club recognised for a few years but looking back now, we were not ready back then. We are better off now since we have a system in place coupled with a great administration team. Gaining official supporters' club status could help us reach out to more fans in Mumbai and cities around Mumbai and would help us increase the fan base. For an average supporter based in Mumbai, he/she now has a medium to connect with Liverpool FC and have access to similar benefits enjoyed by a fan based in Liverpool. I'd like to specially thank Tanay Ganatra and also Amod Mallya, who played a pivotal part in the formation of the supporters' club but has now has moved to the United States for his studies."
Kaushal Goyal, Delhi Supporters' Club: "It means the world, actually. Although fans never need any incentive to support LFC, this brings us so much closer to the club. And when I say that, it's not the material things like access to tickets, which is definitely a bonus, but to have real contact with the club means so much to all of us. From the team's perspective that has worked tirelessly for the past so many years to bring the fans together, it is a great privilege, reward and honour to be recognised by the club and told that we now have the blessings of the club to take it even further."
Why did you decide to launch a supporters' club?
Mangesh, Mumbai: "Before we launched, the concept of a supporters' club was new to us, but we were aware of some of the groups of other football clubs that had been established. I always dreamt of watching a Liverpool match at Anfield but for most of us it was not possible to arrange for the finances to realise our dream. I thought about what could be the next best thing. That's when the idea of forming a supporters' club came to our mind. We might not be in the company of 45,000 LFC supporters but about 60 is more than I can ask for. The joy of watching a Liverpool match with fellow supporters can hardly be eclipsed. We were determined to bring the same kind of atmosphere at Anfield to Mumbai and that is exactly what we tried to do and probably achieved."
Kaushal, Delhi: "I'm sorry if my answer sounds too common-place but we liked watching games with fellow fans and wanted to extend that facility to others. So, we kept on searching for more fans online and before we knew it, there was a group - a club - of fans who now call themselves DelhiKop."
Why did you pick Liverpool as your team?
Tanay Ganatra, Mumbai: "Why Liverpool? Gary Macca, 94th minute. As one of my friend quotes, 'It started as a bout of curiosity, turned into passion and has become an addiction.' It is actually the other way around. Liverpool picked me."
Kaushal, Delhi: "Personally, my inclination towards club football came about after the 1998 World Cup. I bought myself a copy of a FIFA and after the Argentina-England game with that goal from Michael Owen, I had to pick a team with him in it. For the first few years I followed Liverpool, I did so without even knowing the great heritage of the club, the support that we have, the great heroes we've had and I was mad about Liverpool even then."
Who was your first idol for Liverpool?
Tanay, Mumbai: "If I had to name one, probably it would be Sami Hyypia."
Kaushal, Delhi: "Well, I did start following Liverpool for Michael Owen, so he'll have to take that position."
Are Liverpool popular in India?
Tanay, Mumbai: "Definitely and the quality of LFC supporters is something which the club would definitely be proud of. The Brand Trust Report 2013 does say that LFC are the second most trusted sports brand in India."
Kaushal, Delhi: "Absolutely. I can't comment on the number of fans Liverpool has with respect to those of other clubs but we have a massive supporter base in India. What I can comment on is the quality of support that Liverpool enjoys here. The fans are immensely passionate about the club. The support at the screenings is amazing, but the fans also understand the club's values. The supporters never let a fellow fan 'walk alone'."
What is it about Liverpool that appeals to fans in India?
Tanay, Mumbai: "The history, the tradition, the passion and the quality of football that has been played over the years."
Kaushal, Delhi: "We Indians are proud of our heritage - the history and the culture. We pride ourselves with our strong 'family values'. If there was ever a club that could resonate those values, it is Liverpool Football Club. There cannot be a more 'Indian' club."
India is not known as a football-loving country because cricket is so popular. Are you starting to see football and LFC grow in terms of popularity?
Mangesh, Mumbai: "Absolutely, there was a time about a decade ago when an average playground would have about twenty groups playing cricket and one small group playing football. Today there are as many kids playing football as there are playing cricket. Football has grown massively popular in India and so has the LFC fan following."
Kaushal, Delhi: "Cricket is definitely the most popular sport in the country but football being second does not mean it is not loved. Ever since the advent of cable television in India in the early '90s, football has been growing exponentially. As more and more people follow football, it is only natural for a lot of them to choose to support LFC."
If fans in India would like to join one of your supporters' clubs, how would they do it?
Mangesh, Mumbai: "You can get in touch with us through the contact details mentioned on the OLSC page of the LFC website. Also we have our presence on all the major social networking platforms. Contact anyone from the admin team and we will guide you through the rest."
Kaushal, Delhi: "Our club is open to all fans in the region. There's a small form on the website they can register themselves on our database. The can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter and of course drop in to our screenings. We've never asked for any membership fee and intend to keep it that way. Going forward, we may introduce a 'premium' tier of memberships."
Finally, how did you feel when LFC announced it was launching an official twitter account for Indian fans in December 2012? No other club has done this...
Tanay, Mumbai: "It is great to see that our beloved club is the first one to take special initiatives to connect with fans thousands of miles away not only in India but also other parts of the world. To be voted the second most trusted sports brand in India by Brand Trust Report 2013 proves this is something that the club is definitely doing right. Special kudos to the LFC team who have made this possible."
Kaushal, Delhi: "When you think about it, it means that the club has acknowledged that there is strong support in India and that the club has allocated resources and time so that the fans here can feel closer to the club, can interact with the club, and can connect with more fans across the country. It is a feeling I cannot describe but then that's what Liverpool Football Club is all about."