GUWAHATI: In India’s Northeast, football is more than just a sport - it’s a way of life. With two major games the last few weeks, fans in the Northeast have found novel ways to celebrate the sport.

In Aizawl, a group of die hard Chelsea Football Club fans organised a blood donation drive on June 1 to mark the victory of Chelsea at the UEFA Europa League Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan a few days ago.

Every time, Chelsea wins any major cup, these youngsters -- organised into the Mizo Chelsea Supporters’ Club (MCSC) -- get together and do something for charity. This group was formed in 2011, and have been celebrating Chelsea’s wins with an act of good ever since.

“It’s a great moment for us to be organizing this [blood donation drive] event. We are happy that Chelsea has won and we are celebrating the victory in this way. Let’s hope there are many more victories for Chelsea,” Jonathan Lalremruata, the honorary secretary of MCSC, told The Citizen.

The group’s motto is charity in the name of Chelsea. In December last year the MCSC members collected Rs. 1,04,095 and 10 bags of rice, two vegetable bags and 50 bags of clothes for Thutak Nunpuitu, the biggest orphanage in the state. England international and Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley sent a video message for this charity.

“We are grateful that Chelsea club has also helped us for this [blood donation drive] event. They have posted about it on their Facebook page. Yokohama, the main sponsor of Chelsea, has also provided us merchandise to give away for the event. Last year, we were also covered by Chelsea magazine,” Jonathan added.

India internationals Jeje Lalpekhlua, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Daniel Lalhlimpuia from Mizoram are also members of this group.

“They are also supporting us for the cause. Lallianzuala has already donated his India jersey to give away. This has really helped us get publicity,” said Jonathan said.

Altogether, 93 fans have donated their blood as part of the drive.

Currently, the fan club is registered officially with Chelsea FC, and has the ‘Gold’ category.

In November, the Club also helped Mizo fans meet Didier Drogba, one of the game’s greats and a Chelsea legend, when he visited Delhi.

“It was a dream come true to meet the legend. I presented him with a traditional hat, a traditional bag and our club shirt. It was definitely a memorable moment for me and also for other members of our club,” Jonathan said.

Mizoram is one of the states in the country where football is a religion. Aizawl FC, their only team to play in the I-league had won the title in 2017, on their maiden appearance in the oldest existing league of the country.

“I think this story will go well with the fact that Mizoram is India’s football powerhouse with most Mizo players in the ISL and I League. Of all Indian states, Mizoram’s craze for football stands out,” Jonathan said.