Kochi: Surrounded by a crowd of hardcore fans, all clicking on their smartphones, it took more than 10 minutes for Sachin Tendulkar to walk just 10 metres from the car in which he had arrived at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium to the main entrance of the venue.
As supporters jostled for a view of the Master Blaster from close range and kept chanting his name in unison, the police and security forces struggled to maintain order.
One among the thousands of fans was heard muttering that it would make a sea change in the sluggish attitude of Kerala towards football, if Sachin were to make frequent visits on behalf of his freshly christened Indian Super League football club – Kerala Blasters.
Indeed, the whole system had sort of blasted off with such rapidity from the moment Sachin touched down at the home venue of his team, giving hope for football in Kerala, which in recent years has got accustomed to playing to empty galleries.
Once he finally made it inside with his ISL partner and entrepreneur Prasad Potluri, Sachin was greeted by football icon I.M.Vijayan. He later toured the exhibition hall of the Sachin Tendulkar Pavilion, but skipped the rest of the scheduled programme that included meeting Mayor Tony Chammany and N.Venugopal, Chairman of the Greater Cochin Development Authority, the owners of the stadium.
Though the visit was brief it was assuring for both football and cricket that had developed some sort of friction recently over sharing the venue and the possibility of tampering with the playing surface.
The Football Association said the cancelled meeting would be held next month in the absence of Sachin. “We have been told that the team name and logo will be announced soon,” said Anil Kumar, secretary of KFA.
Meanwhile, I.M. Vijayan was excited over Sachin's visit.
“I believe there is no other Malayalee who has spent good friendly time with both the God of cricket and the God of football,” said the iconic I.M. Vijayan after meeting Sachin Tendulkar at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Tuesday.
The Black Pearl of Indian football had played some football with Diego Maradona, when the football God visited Kannur in October 2012 and after sharing pleasantries with the cricket God, Vijayan was virtually lost for words.
“I was a little shy when Sachin came in, but he is such a gentleman that he asked me to stay close. I had a similar experience with Maradona who hugged me tight after we played football for a few minutes. I feel so blessed,” said Vijayan.
The legendary striker said he requested Sachin to start a football academy in Kerala to which the Master Blaster said ‘yes, I will’.
“He then invited me to go along inside the Sachin Pavilion. He asked if I watch football and I said I used to watch regularly when he was playing,” he added.
Vijayan also met Kerala Blasters’ co-owner Prasad Potluri. The former India hitman said he would be delighted to associate with the team if given a chance....