Caught in the tug of war between the state’s two most popular games, the maintenance of the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium is taking a hit.
Having hosted international cricket and football matches to great fan-fare in the last couple of months, the stadium has become a priority venue. While the All-India Football Federation is keen to bring matches featuring world class teams to Kochi, the Board of Control for Cricket in India are even considering the stadium as a possible Test venue.
However, with both Kerala Football Association and Kerala Cricket Association keen to make use of the facility owned by Greater Cochin Development Authority, the maintenance of the sprawling venue has become a bone of contention.
While the KCA, which has taken the venue on lease for a period of five years, wants the ground to be handed over to it for repair, KFA wants to continue work, as the second division national football league, set to begin in the last week of this month, has been allotted to the state. And the first casualty of the tussle has been on the side of cricket, with the Deodhar Trophy inter-zone limited overs cricket tournament - scheduled to begin here on March 10 - being shifted to Assam owing to paucity of time to prepare the pitch and the outfield.
If the government agencies do not intervene to settle the issue in an amicable manner, the state could lose out on more matches, either football or cricket.
Skating on thin ice
Players often slipped and fell during the early part of the Santosh Trophy, causing disruption in the flow of the matches. Even during the
India-Palestine international friendly, players lost their footing in the central area where the cricket pitches are located. Palestine, struggling as they are to find a place to call their home ground, might have accepted the offer of playing at the J N Stadium but it is highly unlikely that the top teams in the world would allow their prized possessions, Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United for instance, to play in Kochi at the risk of serious injury. For the record, KFA is working to bring some of the world’s top football teams to play in Kochi.
Kerala on the rise
At a time when youngsters from Kerala are making a mark at the national level in both games, it is imperative that quality matches in both games come to Kerala to fully tap the potential of the state.
Kerala last week reached the semifinals for the first time ever of the Vijay Hazare national limited overs cricket tournament after getting the better of traditional powerhouses like Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad and Punjab.
And the Kerala football team, on the path of revival, reached the final of the national championship for the first time in nine years.
While the two associations maintain that there is cordial relation between them, the truth is that the office-bearers have been at loggerheads concerning various matters - from maintenance of the ground, to sharing office space to placing display boards.
The main entrance to the sprawling venue has the name of both KCA and KFA battling for space and visibility.
Currently, the two are placed one above the other. Prior to the formation of the organising committee for the conduct of the 67th Santosh Trophy, there was just one board - that of KCA. On the day of the inauguration of the organising committee, the KFA board was placed covering up the KCA board. A day later, an arrangement was made to place both name boards one above the other providing visibility to both.