It was early morning at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, Kerala. Thousands were in a queue with hopes of bagging tickets for the sold-out Indian Super League (ISL) final featuring Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters. A rumour had spread across the state which said 5,000 tickets were still up for grabs for the final of the third edition of the football league.
KK Dinesan, a police constable, said they were unaware where the rumours had emerged from. He pointed at one of the fans, Shamseer from Malappuram, and said “We both are here for the last three days. I have told this guy many times that the tickets are sold out. And yet is not ready to trust me.”
Early morning trains and buses which arrived in the city on Sunday witnessed large number of travellers from the Malabar region. Rishikesh, a native of the north-most district Kasargod was looking for tickets from the black market. At 6 in the morning, he said, “I didn’t sleep last night, I want just one ticket. If anyone brings me a ticket, I am ready to pay Rs. 3000 for it.”
The road outside the stadium has seen multiple clashes between the police and the hopeful fans since Saturday midnight. The police force didn’t expect these many people and fans to flock the stadium a night prior to the big event. The plan initially by the police was to block entry to the stadium ring road and make it accessible only to those with tickets. However, the plan seems to have backfired given the sheer volume which have thronged the surroundings of the stadium in hopes of scoring a ticket.
Ramesh a native of Neyyatinakara, a suburb of capital Thiruvananthapuram who also camped in the vicinity for three days but to come back empty handed. “I stayed here for the last three days to get ticket. But waiting in queue became useless,” he said.
Another equally disappointed fan is Bimal from Pathanamthitta who only said, “No way to get in,” as he stood on the roadside watching the lucky ones – ones with tickets – trying to get in.
Megna, Sherlin, and Remya who are all IT professionals, working at Infopark, Kochi, booked their ticket minutes after their club Kerala Blasters won the semi final against Delhi Dynamos on penalties.
And yet, they stood in massive queues from 2 PM, five hours prior to the start of the contest. They remained optimistic of Blasters’ chances in front of their home fans and the defence will get them through.
Tickets being sold in the black market
People who weren’t lucky to get tickets through official means have been forced to look at the black market for tickets. Police have arrested four persons and taken them to Palarivattom Police Station for allegedly selling tickets near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Three of them were caught on Saturday and one on Sunday morning.
Sources from the Police department say that the tickets in black are being sold for over Rs. 1000 per ticket. Vivek, native of Perinthalmanna, Malappuram district, said that he met with a man selling tickets. “He was murmuring ‘saadhanam und, saadhanam und (Tickets available, tickets available)’. When I heard this I asked him the rates. He said it was available for Rs. 1500. While I was negotiating a guy in a passing car noticed us. He threw three 2000 rupee notes in seconds after asking ‘ticket undo? (Ticket available?)’ in Malayalam. That man disappeared after the transaction. Before that he told me that he would come back. Now I am waiting for him,” he stated.
Police have not registered any case so far.
Fans lathi charged
Police lathi charged many in the crowd to disperse and maintain decorum at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Since the wee hours of morning, thousands were present near the stadium to buy tickets. Later the police informed the crowd officially that the tickets will not be sold on Sunday. But the crowd refused to disperse thus forcing the officials to take action. Police also tried to threaten the irate fans but this seemed to do nothing. Despite the violent action, many continued to stick around in hope of bagging a ticket from either touts or legitimate ticket holders.