Bengaluru: Kerala Blasters Football Club’s head coach David James has revealed that he would not have been a part of the team if not for cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar.

Recently, Tendulkar ended his association with the Indian Super League (ISL) team as he sold his stakes. He was a co-owner of the Kerala franchise from the first year of the tournament in 2014.

Ahead of the 2018-19 season, Tendulkar sold his 20% stake but said “a piece of my heart will always beat for the club”.

Speaking in Bengaluru on Thursday, James said Tendulkar’s contribution to the club was “immense”.

“First, I want to thank Sachin Tendulkar. In year one (2014) I met Sachin in London. He kind of vetted me, liked to see whether I was adequate enough to be head coach or player/manager for Kerala Blasters at the time. So if I had not had that conversation, this would not be happening (addressing the media as head coach) now. So, I have to thank him for that,” the 48-year-old former England goalkeeper said.

“His contribution to the football club is immense. He is a God-like character in sporting mythology, or whatever you want to say, in Indian history. It (his departure from the club) will have an impact, of course,” he added.

James, however, said that football and cricket fans were different in Kerala. And Kerala Blasters’ supporters were backing football and not cricket.

“The demography has changed for Kerala Blasters fans. It is understandable that people will have interest in football and also Sachin Tendulkar because of who he was. But that has changed, if you look at social media, with little reference to cricket when they talk about Kerala Blasters,” he explained.

The coach recalled how there was an uproar in Kerala when Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was to be awarded an India-West Indies ODI later this year. The stadium has been Kerala Blasters’ home in the ISL.

“The uproar it caused with the home stadium potentially turning into a cricket pitch for one match, shows where the Kerala football fans are. Again, it shows where the Kerala Blasters fans are: they are football fans, which is a wonderful thing to see because how much India is dominated by cricket. There is a balance now, especially in Kerala. What Sachin has done has been tremendous and we are very grateful for that. Now, it is a new chapter, there are a lot of heavy-hearted football fans,” James said.

Last season, Kerala finished sixth in the ISL standings. In the new season, they will launch campaign against ATK in Kolkata on September 29.