Iain Hume on Kerala-BFC banter: 'Bring it on'

Kerala's very own 'Manjappada' (0:34)

Kerala Blasters' yellow army readies themselves for the ISL Final. (0:34)

Bengaluru FC (BFC) against Kerala Blasters is a fixture that Indian football hasn't seen in the previous seasons of domestic football, but more than a month ahead of their first meeting in Kochi on New Year's Eve in the fourth season of the Indian Super League (ISL), fans of both teams have already started ratcheting up the stakes.

A lot of it dates back to when BFC decided to join the ISL for the 2017-18 season, and Kerala fans then started coming to BFC's AFC Cup matches at the Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru with flags and banners talking up their team.

Speaking to the media on Friday, Kerala striker Iain Hume had a simple response to the hype around the much-awaited fixture.

"Bring it on!"

Ever since the fixture list was announced, the two groups of fans have thrown banter at each other and the clubs themselves have taken this forward with a few words on this new, budding rivalry in Indian football.

"This is what the UK has had for years -- rivalries between clubs, provided it doesn't get nasty and personal. That is something that takes away from the love of football," said Hume, who turned out for Kerala in the first season before playing for ATK in 2015 and 2016.

"The guys who look for a fight and look for arguments are false fans in my eyes. They are the ones that are looking for the negative. Football is a game. I think that is the best way to finish that."

BFC centre-back John Johnson, who shared a dressing room in the I-League with CK Vineeth and Sandesh Jhinghan - both now with Kerala - had a similar reaction when asked about which game he looking forward to the most.

"Kerala Blasters, of course. I think we have to look forward to that game," he said. "Kerala Blasters, New Year's Eve. I think it's a fantastic stadium to go to -- it will be bouncing. Great fans, Great atmosphere. That will be our biggest game."

The two games have most sections of both stadiums sold out, according to the ISL's ticketing agent. Fans who have tried to book tickets online have been greeted with responses like, "Sorry that section of the ground has been sold out."

"That just shows the interest," Johnson said. "Obviously Kerala and BFC have a big following. It just shows how enthusiastic the fans are."

Hume, a fan favourite in Kerala, said he had been following the banter between the fans on social media.

"Yes, I've kept an eye on that. You don't go to a game to want to fight the guys next to you. You go and watch the game because you love the club you support," he said.

"Kerala fans are potentially the best I've been involved with. I'm just being diplomatic here. But there is a rivalry. There is nothing wrong with the rivalry. I've been told by certain people involved with teams that there could be more Kerala fans than Bengaluru fans (in Bengaluru).

"That's going to an interesting one. But it's football. You have got to enjoy it. And I love it when there is rivalry, but it needs to done in the right manner. I don't want to read stories about somebody been hurt and damages to the stadium.

"But bring it on. Banter is great. It's the best thing in the world."