KOCHI: Save for the World Cup, the Euro and the Santosh Trophy, the football-crazy state of Kerala has had few other occasions to manifest its love for the Beautiful Game.
However, now, with the advent of the Indian Super League, the state is all set to enjoy a promising new football season.
On Thursday, when Kochi-based franchise Kerala Blasters FC square off with FC Goa in their first home match at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kaloor, a new football spring will be heralded for Kochi and Kerala.
In the next 34 days, Kochi will host seven football matches, which - unlike the Santosh Trophy or I-League games it has hosted in the previous years - will be watched by an untold number of people in over 100 countries, including the length and breadth of India.
The prospect has struck an enthralling chord with football fans in Kochi, or essentially the majority of Kochiites.
Clubs plan to turn up en-masse
The various football clubs and academies in Kochi are scrambling to secure seats for their members and players for KBFC’s first home match. They vow to create a celebratory mood inside the refurbished stadium to show the world how crazy Queen of Arabia is about football.
Afsal Hameed of Kudos Football Club in Karukapally said that the club will purchase around 30 tickets and bring in all its 30 members to cheer for the home team.
“We love football. That is why we are going to watch the match. We also want to show our support to ISL,” he said. V P Chandran, the secretary of Bhagat Soccer Club in Trippunithura, said,”We are planning to send around 40 players to the stadium. They will do their bit to set the mood inside the stadium.”FF Academy in Eloor and SH Football Academy in Thevara will also send their trainees to the stadium.
Large turnout expected
It is a late homecoming for the Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League, but the ticket sales will tell you that hasn’t dampened the excitement among their fans in the state.Around 35,000 tickets for their opening match against FC Goa on Thursday have been sold, according to team officials. Those were the numbers coming through Federal Bank branches, which is the only outlet for sales, until Wednesday.
Though online sale of tickets have remained lukewarm, with the newly opened counters near the stadium the organizers are hoping that the rest of the tickets will soon be grabbed up. “We hope it will be a full house and the crowd at the counters that were opened on Wednesday is encouraging,” a Blasters official said. Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium where the team will play can hold a capacity crowd of 60,500.
Yellow Mein Khelo, but how?
Though posters that have sprung up in several parts of the city are exhorting people to wear yellow in support of Blasters with the catchphrase ‘Yellow Mein Khelo’, the jerseys are apparently not available in any of the merchandise shops in the city.Except for the 200 yellow jerseys distributed to under-12 players who participated in the KBFC’s grassroots festival at the Regional Sports Centre on Tuesday, and a few that were doled out at a contest at Lulu Mall, the original makes of the jersey are not available in the local market despite a burgeoning demand.
Deepu Dinesh, the manager of the Puma Store in MG Road said the Kerala Blasters jerseys produced by Puma, the official shirt sponsors, will not be available this season. “A lot of people have come to the store asking for the jerseys, but we don’t have any stock anywhere in Kochi. There have been a lot of calls as well,” he said. According to KBFC management, Puma jerseys would be on offer at the stadium from Thursday. Meanwhile, locally-produced replicas of KBFC jerseys are available at sports stores in MG Road, Palarivattom and Broadway at Rs 150.