Meet Anson Mathew, the crazy Kerala Blasters FC fan from Kasargod who lived a dream in Kochi
For Anson Mathew, a resident of Kasargod in Kerala, the Covid-19 pandemic, like it did for so many across the globe, made life very challenging. It forced him to be stuck in India away from his wife and child who were in Ireland.
Anson who previously worked in the Gulf region before moving to Kerala to stay with his parents was about to migrate again this time to Ireland when the pandemic hit and brought his plans to a halt.
During this tough period, away from his wife and child as the pandemic wreaked havoc across the world, one special bond kept him going: his love for Kerala Blasters FC.
Anson is yellow and blue through and through. Even when he was working in the Gulf region, he used to never miss a Kerala Blasters FC match on his phone or TV even if it required him to take leaves or breaks from work that would often lead to salary cuts.
One of the key reasons for him to move back to India was to allow himself a chance to watch the Blasters play from the stadium in Kochi. But the Covid-19 pandemic that forced the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) to be held behind closed doors for two seasons ended those hopes.
As the dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic eased, Anson began preparing for his visa, so that he could finally move to Ireland with his wife and child. His visa was approved and Anson booked his ticket for September 2022, the earliest one possible for him.
But soon it was announced that the Hero ISL would be back in its typical home-away format and would allow fans back in the stadium starting from Hero ISL 2022-23 season.
And Anson, who had left his job in the Gulf to return to India so that he could see Kerala Blasters FC play at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, was set to miss out on the opportunity to witness the Yellow Army in Kochi once again.
Or was he?
He quickly rang up his wife and decided that he would postpone his flight ticket, so that he could watch Kerala Blasters FC play East Bengal FC in their first home game of the Hero ISL 2022-23 season from the stadium. His wife readily agreed but there was a huge financial cost that he was going to incur in postponing his flight.
For most, it would have been a tough decision to make, but for Anson who bleeds yellow and blue, it wasn’t. He rescheduled the ticket in a flash. His bank balance may have taken a hit that day, but it wasn’t much if you compared it to the joy that filled his heart.
Anson gave various different reasons to people who asked him the reasons behind extending his stay. He was unsure if people would find his decision to postpone the ticket for a big sum rational especially when he was among the lucky few who got to witness Kerala Blasters FC play in the Hero ISL final against Hyderabad FC in March.
Anson had arranged for a bus from Kerala to Goa in March to take 50 people along with him to watch his team play in the Hero ISL final.
The Kasargod resident thought he’d live a dream in Goa on the night of March 20, but Kerala Blasters FC’s defeat on penalties left him heartbroken. After returning to his home in Kasargod, he didn’t step out for a week as he was deep in pain after the defeat.
Since then, his determination to cheer Kerala Blasters FC to glory became even stronger. And the first home game back for the Blasters after a gap of over two years was the perfect opportunity.
Fate almost had that chance snatched away from him again, but his love for the Kerala Blasters FC was such that he made fate lay low.
“Like any other Blasters fan, I wanted to fulfil my wish to watch the game in Kochi despite the loss of money for rescheduling the flight ticket. I was supposed to go at the end of September, but now I will go on October 15," Anson told indiansuperleague.com.
For Anson, Kerala Blasters FC are more than just a football club that they support. It’s an integral part of their lives, a reason to be positive, a reason to love life despite the difficulties it throws and a massive hope for budding footballers in the state.
"Football is a religion. I feel that Kerala Blasters is beyond that religion. Blasters have been able to bring back the golden era of football that was once there in Kerala, which then faded away,” Anson said.
“More talented children now dare to take to football as their profession. The Hero ISL and Kerala Blasters have created a healthy generation in Kerala that understands the true spirit of sports and social gatherings. I am sure that in the future my daughter too can become a football player if she wants to and has the ability to. Hero ISL and Kerala Blasters are behind that assurance." Anson added.
Finally, after years of struggle to watch Kerala Blasters FC play, Anson had the opportunity to stand on the terraces of the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Kochi and sing his heart out. He did exactly that and much to his joy, the team and the players also responded.
A flurry of late goals in the final 20 minutes of the match saw Kerala Blasters FC beat East Bengal FC 3-1 and begin their Hero ISL 2022-23 season with a bang. The heartbreak of last season’s final seemed a distant memory as Kerala Blasters FC and their fans rejoiced on a dreamy night in Kochi that is set to stay on with Anson.
"It was beyond my imagination. A full stadium, tens of thousands of fans, a sea of yellow, chants, cheers, and finally the long-awaited victory that I always wanted to witness. These memories will be with me when I will be fighting to survive in a foreign country. I will come back again if Kerala Blasters reach the final!" Anson said.
It would cost Anson a bomb again to return to India, but if Kerala Blasters FC make it all the way to the final of the Hero ISL again, the money like always would matter little.