KOCHI: Though football may be losing ground in Kerala due to lack of good infrastructure to train local talents and also because the number of matches being held is rapidly on the decrease, the crowd support that the Kerala Blasters FC received during its every single match bears testimony to the fact that the game is still very popular here.
The crowd turnout at Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium is the highest in the entire first stage of ISL this year.
Statistics show that a total of 3,31,986 football fans turned up to watch the seven home matches of Kerala Blasters in Kochi. This is the highest turnout compared to other venues in India. The average attendance at Kochi was 47,427. The Kerala Blasters vs Chennaiyin match was attended by 61,323 people. This is second only to the turnout of 65,000 people at the inaugural ceremony of ISL at Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata.
Every one of Kerala Blasters’ match is a visual treat. The stadium turns yellow, with majority of the fans turning up dressed in the team’s yellow jersey making the slogan ‘Yellow Mein Khelo’ a reality.
“In a win or a loss, I will remain a Blasters fan forever” proclaimed a banner during the the team’s match against FC Pune City at the stadium.
Kerala Blasters’ player-coach and former England star David James, recently said in an interview that he the huge crowd turn out and their enthusiasm during each match has impressed him. “I’ve played at a number of stadiums in my career, but honestly, I can’t recall ever playing in an atmosphere like the one in Kochi. It is absolutely amazing. Sure Wembley when it’s packed with 1,00,000 fans is noisy, Goa was pretty loud too, but they are nothing to compete to our stadium. The 60,000 people with the continuously beats of the drums make it unique,” he said.
On Facebook, the most popular team in ISL is Kerala Blasters. The team has been liked by 4.5 lakh FB users.
“We need to prove that we are the biggest fans amongst all ISL teams. Lets march towards Kaloor stadium on the 13th. We should make 75,000 plus attendance on last the ISL home match of this season. We need to create history. Come on guys,” posted Kannan Mohandas, a Kerala Blasters fan on the team’s Facebook page. Iain Hume the top scorer for Kerala Blasters is the favourite player. Similarly, after the standout performance by Sandeep Nandi against FC Pune City, many fans have started comparing him with this year’s Ballon d’Or(FIFA world player of the year) contender Manuel Neuer on Facebook.
“It is absolutely fantastic to behold the over 50,000 strong crowd in the stadium. It’s a bit of a cliche that you call them the 12th man, but they are driving force behind the team and it’s a pleasure to play in front of them,” said Stephen Pearson. “I always played in France, but I cannot remember a better atmosphere anywhere that I have played. What an amazing experience we’ve enjoyed every day. The crowd has been amazing. I thank the crowd for turning up in such large numbers,” said Raphael Romey.