THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the first two seasons of the ISL, the biggest concern for Kerala Blasters FC supporters has been the lack of a Kerala spine in their team. Opportunities for Kerala footballers were far and few between while its majority stakeholders PVP Ventures were based in Hyderabad.
The relationship between the fans and the management had reached a low when the team's performance dipped in ISL 2015, so much so that fans protested by attending one of the home matches in Kochi wearing gags over their mouths.
So, it was an attempt out of desperation from KBFC on Wednesday when their new co-owners, a consortium consisting of Telugu superstars Chiranjeevi and Akkineni Nagarjuna, recollected their ties with the state in a bid to connect with the Kerala football aficionados.
Apart from the acting duo, film producer Allu Aravind and Andhra industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad are part of the group which took over from PVP Ventures as partners of legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar at the ISL franchise.
Sachin led the party saying it has been a pleasure to visit Kerala time and again. "Each time I am here it fills me with love and affection," said the 2011 World Cup winner. "It is the fans who motivate players so they can go out and give their best," Sachin had words for the fans.
Meanwhile, Chiranjeevi revoked his connections with football. "I tried playing football when I was a child. But on the first day itself, an opponent hit my shin and it was too painful that I never played afterwards," he said.
The superstar also spoke about his tryst with the Beautiful Game on the silver screen. "In the eighties, I acted as a goalkeeper in 'Vijetha' and then as a coach in 'Master'," Chiranjeevi said.
Nagarjuna, on the other hand, said Thiruvananthapuram is "close to his heart". "I used to come here to romance Amala before we got married," he told about his wife who acted in Malayalam films too.
"More than that, Kerala also gifted Amala one of her last films 'Ente Sooryaputhrikku' which was a huge success. And for that reason, I have a very happy wife at home," Nagarjuna, who also co-owns Mumbai Masters in Indian Badminton League with Sunil Gavaskar.
Aravind said he has been visiting Kerala as a tourist and is excited about connecting with Kerala "which is one of the best states in India". He also said that his son Arjun is nicknamed 'Mallu" Arjun as his movies have plenty of takers in Kerala.
Entrepreneur Prasad also said he had started his career in Kochi around three decades ago and is used to visiting the state capital on business trips.
Blasters' new co-owners have tired their best to connect with the fans here, but the real litmus test for them will come when the ISL kicks off in October later this year.