Ever since news broke out on Thursday that Indian Super League (ISL) franchise Kerala Blasters FC will shift their home stadium from Kochi to Kozhikode, there has been a complete ruckus on social media. Will they play all their home matches at the EMS Stadium in Calicut? And if yes, what would it mean for I-League side Gokulam Kerala FC, who have been using the stadium as their home ground since their inception in 2017?
Indeed, on Wednesday, the club officials met representatives from the Kozhikode Municipal Corporation to discuss the possibility of playing at the Corporation-owned stadium, for which they would have to pay considerably less rent than the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
While reports have suggested that the Blasters will not completely unroot from Kochi immediately, unless forced to, and will only play a couple of matches, maybe pre-season friendlies at the Corporation Stadium, Gokulam have not taken the news lightly. Club president VC Praveen, while speaking to the Times of India, vehemently objected to the move saying that Blasters only want the benefits after all the hard work was put in by Gokulam over the last couple of years.
“Gokulam have a strong objection in making Kozhikode as Blasters’ home venue. They are welcome to play a couple of matches here, but we want this stadium to exist as Gokulam Kerala’s home ground. For the past six years, Blasters didn’t have any plans to come here. Now after we have invested so much into renovating the stadium and our team working hard to bring the crowd back into the stadium, Blasters want a share of our hard work which we cannot accept,” Praveen was quoted saying.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi has been home to the Blasters for six seasons. Initially, the stadium would be packed with the attendance count often breaching the 60,000 mark before the renovations for the U-17 World Cup in 2017 brought down the capacity to around 42,000.
Over the last couple of seasons, though, the Blasters have seen a massive drop in attendance, mainly due to their below average performances on the field.
This coupled with Blasters’ lacklustre performances saw the attendances dropping to under 10,000 for many games of late. Gokulam, on the other hand, have seen a steady growth in average attendance with almost 25,000-30,000 fans turning up on an average for each match during the I-League 2019-20 season.