The popularity of football in India continues to be on the rise, with steps taken to promote the beautiful game in the country. The country has made progress in various areas, but still has a long way to go and plenty of weaknesses to address.
Nevertheless, India has football clubs that command tremendous fan-following, and many players have already established a name for themselves in the country. A host of players have made it into the list of fan favourites in the Indian football arena, and boast colossal support on social media
In this article, we take a look at five most followed Indian footballers on the popular social media platform, Instagram.
5. Mohammed Rafi
Dubbed 'Headmaster' for his ability to score header goals, Mohammed Rafi enjoys a massive fan-following in Kerala, his home state. The forward, who currently plies his trade for ISL outfit Kerala Blasters, has more than 175k followers on Instagram, making him one of the most followed footballers from Kerala.
4. Jeje Lalpekhlua
With more than 214k followers on the photo and video-sharing platform, the 29-year-old forward is fourth in this list. Injuries may have prevented him from playing in the Indian Super League in the recently concluded edition, but the player is still famous among many sections of Indian football fans.
The Mizo Sniper has scored 23 goals in the Indian Super League - among Indian players, only a certain Sunil Chhetri has scored more.
3. Sandesh Jhingan
A no-nonsense defender, dreaded by attackers, Sandesh Jhingan is the defender who puts his body on the line to guard his team. A fan-favourite, Sandesh Jhingan climbed up the ladder in Indian Super League with Kerala Blasters. The defender won the Emerging Player of the Season award in the inaugural edition of ISL, and there has been no turning back for him - he has gone from strength to strength ever since.
He has already become one of India's most reliable players and is followed by 322k+ on Instagram.
2. Sahal Abdul Samad
This really surprised me.
Sahal Abdul Samad is the apple of the eye of most Kerala Blasters fans. The young midfielder's silky touches and dribbling, and an ability to crack open defences have made many his admirers - including Sunil Chhetri, who has named the Blasters' midfielder as one who could be the next big thing in Indian football.
Sahal certainly has areas of weaknesses, but, at 23, he has already become the second-most followed Indian footballer on Instagram, with a stupendous 407k+ followers.
1. Sunil Chhetri
Captain. Leader. Legend. The one and only Sunil Chhetri takes the first spot with a massive 1million+ followers on Instagram - indeed head and shoulders above the rest. Chhetri is already an Indian football legend.
Despite being 35, the second-highest international goalscorer among active players - ahead of Lionel Messi and only behind Cristiano Ronaldo - continues to deliver big time for both his country and club.
The Indian skipper is also a crowd-puller - don't you remember when fans thronged to Mumbai Football Arena after Chhetri came up with a video requesting them to support the Blue Tigers?