New Delhi, Oct 30 (PTI) The 12th edition of the I-League began in an encouraging note with impressive attendance of football fans in five venues across the country, the national federation said on Tuesday.

The three days of first round (October 26-28) saw five matches being played in Coimbatore, Imphal, Kozhikode, Panchkula and Shillong, and all saw impressive spectator turnouts.

The season opener at Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore on Friday was watched by 8,262 spectators as Chennai City FC hosted Indian Arrows, with the match ending 4-1 in favour of the home side.

Saturday saw robust number of fans turning out in the match between last year’s runners-up NEROCA FC and East Bengal in Imphal, which finished in a 2-0 win for the Red and Golds. The match saw 26,412 fans thronging the stands at the Khuman Lampak Stadium, which became a virtual sea of orange.

The other match of the day recorded the highest attendance among the five fixtures as 28,437 fans witnessed hosts Gokulam Kerala FC play out a scintillating 1-1 draw against Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan at EMS Stadium in Kozhikode. The figure was also the maximum for a Gokulam home match in the I-League, which is a highly encouraging sign.

On Sunday, the match between defending champions Minerva Punjab and Churchill Brothers at Tau Devi Lal Stadium at Panchkula was watched by 8,591 fans. Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj later tweeted that it was the largest turnout in the three-year history of his club.

The final match of the first round, a NorthEast derby was watched by 14,697 fans at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in Shillong with the home side Shillong Lajong recording a memorable 2-1 win against Aizawl FC.

Incidentally, apart from Coimbatore, every other venue which hosted a first round game in the I-League 2018-19 has seen a significant rise in the footfall.

“It’s heartening to see an encouraging start to the Hero I-League this season. We have to congratulate the clubs for the marketing done by them. They have done a splendid work so far and I’m sure, every team will build on this to make this edition of Hero I-League another successful one,” I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.