The Santosh Trophy football tournament that the district celebrated with unprecedented gusto during Ramzan has left a trail of woes and disappointments for the football enthusiasts of Malappuram.
Thousands of football lovers, who reached the Payyanad stadium near Manjeri to watch the matches of the host team Kerala, including the semi and final matches, were denied entry into the venue because of overcrowding. All of them had bought tickets either online or from the counters at the stadium. Many of them were injured in police lathicharges that took place whenever they protested.
Hundreds of enthusiasts, who lost money and suffered insult and police lathicharge during the matches, have formed social media collectives and decided to move legally against the organisers. Some of them have sent lawyer notices to the authorities, including the All India Football Federation, the Kerala Chief Secretary, Malappuram District Collector, and the District Sports Council.
“We are waiting for their reply to move the court formally,” said K.P. Mohammed Iqbal and Manosh Babu. Mr. Manosh had come all the way from Kollam to watch the final match after procuring an online ticket. He was one of the thousands who returned with tears even after reaching the stadium at 4.30 p.m. on May 2.
The authorities, including Sports Minister V. Abdurahiman, who supervised the conduct of the football tournament, had no convincing answer why thousands were denied entry into stadium even after they had bought tickets. According to Mr. Abdurahiman, a lot of people entered the stadium by using fake tickets and those at the gates could not prevent such cases because of the rush.
However, sources within the District Sports Council said that complimentary passes were given in large numbers through different political functionaries. “Those in charge miserably failed to keep a count of the number of free passes given,” said a key official requesting anonymity.
According to Habeeb Rahman, who got thrashed up by the police even after buying a ticket, the organisers sold thousands of tickets at high prices, knowing very well that the buyers would not be bale to enter the stadium.
The Muslim Youth League (MYL) has demanded an inquiry into the incidents that “shamed Malappuram”. In a complaint to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the MYL said that the organisers had cheated the football lovers of Malappuram.
It demanded that apart from refunding the ticket charges collected from the people, the government should conduct an inquiry against those who sold tickets without any restraint and against the police officers who beat up the crowds.
Sameer K., a football enthusiast from Edavanna, who bought three tickets of Rs. 1,000 each three days before the final match, said he and his eight-year-old child had to return home in shame and tears. “We could see a 40-member team of teachers and students from a school in Edappal crying with a Kerala banner in their hand,” said Mr. Sameer
He said he would sue the authorities for not only the loss of money, but for the suffering and the loss of time.