Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, home to the Kerala Blasters FC, will be dug up to create a cricket pitch, angering players and fans alike.

Keralas push to host West Indies ODI at Kerala Blasters home stadium angers football fansWikimedia Commons/ Bittuspeeding/ CCBYSA4.0
news Sport Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - 12:51

The decision made by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to award the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) the right to host a One Day International match between India and West Indies in November could lead to a potential clash between the state cricket and football associations

KCA has indicated that it would like to host the fixture in Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium. This stadium has hosted ODI matches in the past; the last match held here was in 2014.

In the recent years, Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium has hosted football matches and is also the home stadium to the Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League.

Club officials and football fans in the state are decidedly unimpressed by this turn of events. The team’s star striker CK Vineeth took to Twitter to register his displeasure against the rumoured move and questioned why a football pitch needed to be dug up to play a cricket match.

Vineeth’s words were echoed by a number of Blasters’ players, including Rino Anto and Iain Hume, who also took to social media to denounce the idea of their home stadium playing host to a cricket match.

Manjappada, the club’s vocal fanbase, also criticised the move and called for the game to be shifted to Thiruvananthapuram. #SaveKochiTurf soon began trending on social media as football fans came together to denounce the move.

A cricket match at the stadium would mean that the football pitch prepared for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017 will be changed to create the pitch for the cricket match. 

“This is not just a stadium for us, this is our home,” said Amal, a Kochi-based football fan as well as a member of Manjappada. “Just to organize one day of cricket, why would you ruin a world-class football pitch which has been appreciated by international players. Also, there is another stadium in Thiruvananthapuram, which has better facilities for cricket.”

The game scheduled for November 1, 2018, also comes around the time Kerala Blasters will be involved in the 2018-19 ISL season.

The last international cricket game awarded to Kerala was played at the recently opened Greenfield International Stadium in Karivattom, Thiruvananthapuram. It hosted a T20 international between India and New Zealand in November 2017 and earned plaudits for managing to pull off an 8-over-a-side game in spite of rain.

However, it appears that the KCA is unwilling to host the game in Thiruvananthapuram again. "It was a one-off decision to play in the capital city as we had to respect the FIFA regulations. We will definitely want to conduct the ODI in Kochi now that the World Cup is over," said Ronklin John, KCA president speaking to The New IndianExpress.

Cricket enthusiasts in Thiruvanananthapuram started a social media campaign, meanwhile, to bring the issue to MP Shashi Tharoor’s notice. It appeared to have worked as Tharoor announced on Twitter that he had spoken to Controller and Auditor General Vinod Rai about the KCA’s ‘bizarre’ decision to move the match from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi.

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