This was to be the one Goa plan that wasn't going to get cancelled. But after the ISL announced that the 2019-20 final between ATK and Chennaiyin would be played behind closed doors, fans from both teams are now having to do what almost every college student of a certain age has done -- cancel a Goa trip.
The general mood seems to reflect that surrounding the cancellation/postponement of sporting events across the board -- annoyed, disappointed but understanding the situation. Most Chennaiyin fans had decided that they would be making the trip from the final after that semi-final first leg thrashing of Goa itself. They did not want to miss out as the minor miracle that Owen Coyle had whipped up enters its dramatic climax. For them, the build-up itself had been as brilliant.
But now buses booked for the purpose, flight tickets purchased have been cancelled the financial losses are considerable for the hundreds of fans who were planning to make the trip. Sanadh Avinash, one of the BStand Blues fan group, says what while they are annoyed, "on the bigger picture it makes sense. Precautions are more important than any sports event. This isn't anyone else's fault. This is affecting the entire globe and we aren't some privileged people to not get affected by this." Another fan, Arun Karthik, agrees, "Financial losses, emotional losses, can always be compensated, but if something were to happen in the stadium... most of us were upset but generally, we accepted it. I think they did the right thing."
The fans had earlier felt that with the COVID19 outbreak within the country, the ISL final could survive the sporting shutdowns that have been happening across the world -- Serie A, La Liga, MLS. They could see it coming but were praying that any shutdown in India would be held in abeyance, enabling the ISL final to pass under the radar, but it wasn't meant to be. Karthik is already in Goa, with his football-crazy family, and now plans to make the best of it. "At least we'll have a vacation here, keeping away from crowded areas, sitting on the beach," he laughs.
Other fans just do not want to miss out. Jeni, from the Supermachans fan group, says she and 25 others will be still be travelling from Chennai. "We know we won't be allowed in the stadium but we'll stand at the gate -- to greet the team bus, to welcome the players and let them know, 'No matter what, no matter where, we are there.'" The league has also agreed, she says, to put their banners inside the stadium. "Although we won't be inside, at least our banners will be in... We've already arranged a screening at a hotel next to the stadium," she says. After taking possible precautions, she promises, because they do not want to miss the chance to be there as their team makes its bid to win a record third ISL title.