Coronavirus: Football turf owners facing the heat in Kochi as players stay away
Kochi's football turf owners have struggled with the sudden fall in bookings, with some contemplating a total shut down of business till the coronavirus pandemic scare is over.
Kerala is renowned for its love of football, and has contributed many great players to the Indian national team such as striker IM Vijayan, and versatile midfielder Jo Paul Ancheri. The love for the game transcends all social boundaries in the state, which perhaps best explains the boom in artificial football turfs across the state in recent years. But with the deadly coronavirus reaching Kerala (28 positive cases reported so far), and the government promoting social distancing to control the global pandemic, the football turfs have turned into isolated spaces with the owners struggling to stay afloat.
Kerala has been leading the way in India's fight against COVID-19, launching campaigns such as "Break The Chain", encouraging social distancing, providing mid-day meals at home, and announcing relief measures for everyone affected. Unfortunately, the virus has put a temporary halt to the football fever in the state, with players choosing to wait out the corona-storm inside their houses.
Kochi's turf owners have struggled with the sudden fall in bookings, with some contemplating a total shut down of business till the pandemic scare is over. Popular football clubs in the town such as Hermanos FC have suspended their activities till the end of the month and have requested their members to "follow the medical authorities to avoid possible infection and spreading" of the virus.
"80% of our clients are techies working in IT companies. They have gone back to their homes since the companies have closed. The rest are small kids who are not allowed to come out by their parents," said Navin, owner of Olround Sports based in Kakkanad, to Asiaville.
All the turfs have introduced safety measures such as hand santisers for everyone, and encouraging the players to not hang around once the match is over. "Even though we provide basic sanitation, we would not force people to come and play as we understand the situation and should not act as a medium for the disease to spread," added Navin.
Vinay, owner of DNA sports based in Kaloor, echoed the same sentiments.
"We have started “DNA Break The Chain Campaign” as part of the fight against Corona. The players have to clean their hands before and after the game and they would have to immediately vacate the turf after their allotted time. Other measures include cleaning the restrooms and benches with Dettol apart from the regular sanitation," he said to Asiaville.
Jinu Thomas, owner of Jabulani Sports, another highly popular football turf in the city, had a gloomier take on the subject. "It would take a minimum of three years for this business to show some profits. With high competition and such health emergencies, the reality of being successful is a facade," he said.
Football turfs, often accompanied by small cafes, became a rage in recent years as more and more people preferred the softer, artificial surface and the better facilities (such as showers and dressing rooms) over football games on normal grounds. With the grounds in the city fast diminishing, and people preferring to play in the evenings under floodlights, football turfs became a lucrative business opportunity for many across the state in the past few years. But the seemingly saturated business is now clinging for survival as people stay away from the turfs to avoid the deadly coronavirus.