GCDA, KFA and KCA keen to have ODI and ISL in November

The Greater Cochin Development Authority – which is the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium’s guardian – the Kerala Football Association and the Kerala Cricket Association want cricket and football to go hand in hand, with the international event getting priority, as per the MoU signed between them.

The last ODI to be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Kochi, was back in November 2014, between India and the West Indies.   -  K. Pichumani

Sachin Tendulkar is against it, Shashi Tharoor, Sunil Chhetri, IM Vijayan and C. K. Vineeth too. There has been a massive wave of protest from Kerala’s passionate football fans and sports and political biggies against the Kerala Cricket Association’s plan to host India’s One-Day International against the West Indies at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on November 1.

Worried that laying the cricket pitches would mean digging up the FIFA-approved football turf at the stadium, which hosted the under-17 World Cup last year, and make it slippery for football, a huge #SaveKochiTurf campaign has surfaced on social media, which wants the match moved to Thiruvananthapuram’s Sports Hub, which hosted the India-New Zealand T20 last November.

READ: KCA's choice to host ODI in Kochi's Nehru Stadium draws ire

The stadium, which last hosted an ODI in 2014, is also home to Indian Super League team Kerala Blasters – which is co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar and boats the biggest fan base – and that is the reason behind the massive protests since the ISL matches will also be held in November.

But the Kerala Football Association, the KCA and the Nehru Stadium’s guardian GCDA want cricket and football to go hand in hand, with the international event getting priority, as per the MoU signed between them. They had a meeting here on Wednesday along with Blasters to resolve the issue.

“I want both cricket and football to be played here. There is only one stadium in Kochi for cricket and football so we have to face these things. Even if I am into football, how can I forget other things…and the KCA has taken the stadium on a 30-year lease,” KFA President K. M. I. Mather said.

It’s a fact that if football is thriving at the stadium, the KCA – which spent nearly Rs 10 crore to improve facilities and pays Rs 40 lakh every year towards maintenance apart from yearly rent – is a big reason.

Jayesh George, the KCA Secretary, said that he was keen to have the ODI in Kochi as Thiruvananthapuram hosted the recent T20 international. “One match here in Kochi, the next there, that’s the plan,” he said.

He also revealed that the GCDA meeting went smoothly. “There were no arguments, all this has been created in social media. And there is an impression that we will dig up the entire ground. There will be no such thing,” explained Jayesh. “We will be just removing some top layer on some 5000sqft for the five wickets,” he added.

Meanwhile, the GCDA Chairman C. N. Mohanan said that he wants the ODI and ISL to be held in Kochi. “A few years ago (in 2014), we had an ODI and the ISL after a break of around 20 days. But some players have raised concerns this time, so we will consult ground experts from outside to check whether it will be possible to conduct the ODI and then the ISL after about three weeks,” said Mohanan.

'Blasters cannot interfere'

But for the Blasters and its fans, this is an emotional issue. After all, isn’t this their home ground? No, it’s not officially their home ground. If it is their home ground, it has to be their own ground,” explained Mather.

“The Blasters cannot take any decision, it is between the ISL and the AIFF because the schedule, fixtures and other things are under their control. The Blasters cannot interfere in this at all.”

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