Kochi sings Sachin tune

Playing his way

The familiar ‘Sachin, Sachin’ chant defined the mood at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as the iconic former Indian cricketer watched a rock-band homecoming for Kerala Blasters FC, the team he co-owns in the Indian Super League (ISL).

The arena sported yellow as Blasters, powered by a crowd that did everything to cheer their team – from the mandatory drumming-up to impromptu jigs in the near-packed stands – sealed the match 1-0 against Goa FC.

The fans did paint names of the side’s star strikers on their faces; there was even a group of Arsenal fans welcoming the Blasters back home. But the star of the evening, indeed, was the legendary batsman.

Tendulkar arrived at the venue with wife Anjali. He also released a copy of his autobiography --Playing It My Way -- along with Nita Ambani, founding chairperson of the league, during the break after the first half of the match, a day after the book’s formal launch in Mumbai.

“We have so many supporters here in yellow… that’s why I said yellow mein khelo. It’s a fantastic feeling,” Tendulkar said during the half-time break.

The roller-coaster ride the Blasters had in the league so far did not reflect on the stands that had a crowd of about 50,000, including Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and stars from the Malayalam entertainment industry.

Robin, an aspiring athlete, said home matches could reverse the team’s fortunes because it was hard to fail in an “exhilarating” ambience like what Kochi had on Thursday. For six-year-old Abhinand, the Blasters’ first home match was “fun” because it also came with a lot of “noise” and he could catch a distant glimpse of Tendulkar.

“We had clubbed a personal visit to Kottayam yesterday with this match… it was quite a long journey but it was worth all the trouble,” said Sharaf who turned up for the match with a group of friends from Kannur. Groups of youngsters started teeming in by late afternoon with banners and placards. More than 1,000 policemen were in duty on security and traffic arrangements in and around the stadium.

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