SATURDAY'S MATCH BETWEEN Gokulam Kerala FC and Real Kashmir FC is off to a contentious start with a controversy erupting between the two clubs more than a day before the game.
Debutants Real Kashmir FC who are currently third on the league table with 13 points from 7 matches are making their first trip to Kozhikode to play their away fixture against Gokulam Kerala FC (9 points from 7 games).
But the visiting contingent is not happy with the arrangements, and they made it clear on social media earlier today. Earlier this morning, they tweeted alleging that hosts GKFC had failed to provide them a bus to the training ground and their officials, including head coach David Robertson, was abused by local club officials.
The Real Kashmir FC twitter handle further posted videos of the players training on a tiny patch of grass at the side of the EMS Stadium.
A video showing the RKFC officials being asked to leave the premises by local club officials was also posted.
That the interactions between the two clubs' personnel had already reached a considerable level of bitterness became clear when Rajah Rizwan, first team manager of GKFC, posted a counter-allegation saying the Real Kashmir coach David Robertson had abused local staff and even threatened them.
According to Rizwan, the bus to the training ground arrived late because of a political strike going on in Kerala. But before the vehicle arrived, the Real Kashmir FC contingent had entered the EMS Stadium without permission and started to practice at a warm up area next to the main pitch. This led to the ground staff protesting them, which led to an exchange of heated words. Rizwan further alleged that the Real Kashmir staff had "manhandled GKFC's LGC" and stopped a groundsman from taking video of the incident.
According to Real Kashmir FC the matter has been reported to the All India Football Federation, and it remains to be seen what the possible investigation in this matter by the Federation will reveal.
Gokulam Kerala FC and Real Kashmir FC are set to face each other on 15th December at 5 pm, in a match where a victory for either team would mean a chance to get into the thick of the title race.
Meanwhile, word of the incident spread fast, with even former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah weighing in on the issue.
The Gokulam Kerala FC twitter handle obviously thought the former CM's concerns about Real Kashmir's safety exaggerated the situation, and they came back with this:
The host club handle also posted a series of tweets explaining their perspective on the situation...
Here's hoping the matter resolves peacefully between the two clubs' officials and tomorrow's match goes on as per schedule without any more untoward incidents.
UPDATE: Gokulam Kerala FC, in an official statement, have alleged that their CEO Ashok Kumar was manhandled by Real Kashmir FC staff, which has further escalated the controversy. We will keep you posted as more information emerges.