KOCHI: “Sachin! Sachin!” Be it cricket or football, that was what the audience chanted whenever Sachin Tendulkar entered the stadium.
His sudden departure from the Kerala Blasters FC (KBFC) franchise has left fans reeling in the state, especially in Kochi where the team’s home ground is situated.“In the late 1990s, after FC Kochin and Kerala Police team, there wasn’t any team which got so much attention in Kerala,” said Somu Joseph, secretary of Manjappada, the official fan club of Kerala
“Then came Indian Super League (ISL) and Sachin owning a share in the Kerala Blasters franchise. It is without a doubt that this created a revolution in football. Though he is a cricket legend, every football fan here has received him wholeheartedly. So it was sad to see him leave.”
According to him, at the end of the day, Sachin has served his purpose of reigniting the passion for football in Kerala. “Look at the number of football clubs that were created after the inception of KBFC, such as Gokulam FC and Kovalam FC. Sachin has accomplished what he came to achieve,” said Somu.
For an ardent football fan like Rony George who resides in Kochi, the increasing popularity of the sport ignited his dreams of playing professional football. “Sachin is a feeling. The roar of the crowd when he enters the stadium is an emotion that cannot be expressed through words,” he said. “The footsteps of pioneers are always followed throughout history. The same will continue here.”
Experts in the field of football opine that it is up to the fans to establish whether the excitement surrounding KBFC was because of Sachin or the true spirit of football. “It is true the football culture was reignited in the state solely with the help of Sachin,” said Walter Antony, head coach of FACT Football Academy. “In such a case, it is truly saddening to see him leaving. And it would surely affect the upcoming season of ISL. But after that, the fans should decide if this is what defines the spirit of football.”