Messi Neymar Ronaldo

With the onset of FIFA World Cup, Kerala’s football fanatics have geared up the game ahead. The giant cut-out of Neymar, Messi and Ronaldo in the pullavoor river in Kozhikode is a paradigm of how Kerala’s passion for football pumps through the veins. As fans roots for football legends Messi ,Neymar and Ronaldo world cup fever is interestingly reaching heights in Kerala.

Kerala’s craze for football runs deep not just during FIFA season, it’s initial impetus traces back from several decades. The term ‘kaalpanthu’ (football) is an emotion for Keralites which they are remotely related to. Kerala’s street, beach, slum, and road turn into a football ground in the evenings. Kids hurry from school to run behind the football, and they dream of becoming football legends. They cheer, yell, bawl and squeeze each other out of joy gaining each goal. They roar, fight, shout and enrage each other missing out the same, but unsurprisingly Keralites are bridged through the unfeigned love for football. Building this craze for the past centuries, it is mechanically overshadowing posterity which has become a global talk point.

Kerala owns a shorter version of the game called ‘Sevens’. It is the product of the football culture prevalent in Kerala especially the Northern region of the state. It has seven players in a team and played typically in a smaller field. Two types of people play for popular seven-a-side tournaments, they are locals from Kerala inclusive of people from all walks of life and a limited number of people from various countries, especially from Africa.Thousands of people cramming around ‘Maidanam’ (ground) rise in zeal for their favourite team followed by cheers and commentaries forgetting the struggles of their mediocre life.

Malayalam movie “Sudani from Nigeria” which bagged the national award for the Best Malayalam Film in the 66th National Film Awards turned the spotlight on sevens football carried in the hearts Kerala’s Malabar residents. Malabar is the mecca for football in Kerala, football bestrode in awe through their blood, where one can see the passion without age boundaries. This is why the 2024 World cup tribute music video starring actor Mohanlal is themed on North Kerala where football is a religion.

Kerala has been striving to transcend the youth in football through various programs. Gokulam Football School (GFS) is one such football development project by Gokulam Kerala FC’s foundation with a vision to reach the community through the sport. GFS aims to provide a platform for all aspiring football players in the state and a channel to develop and perform at a professional level. It also catapulted coachings for girls to rise in the game resulting in Gokulam FC Women team. Kerala Government has launched a “Goal project” to provide football training for over 5 lack students. The Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum launched India’s first church-funded Football Academy, the Little Flower Football Academy (LiFFA) in 2015, with a vision to promote football through the children of the community. Sports and Education Promotion Trust (SEPT) is the cream of the crop launched in Kerala’s Malabar district, Calicut in promoting football fervor in children. Now SEPT has grown widely training thousands of students across countries. Soccer-passionate students across Kerala are now ardently aroused in FIFA fever. School and college students are divided between Argentina and Brazil fans involving fervent discussions and bets leading to a curious frenzy.

Towering cut-outs of Neymar, Messi, and Ronaldo in Pullavoor received recognition from the official handle of FIFA, even tweeted with the caption “#FIFAWorldCup fever has hit Kerala.” A forty minutes documentary film ‘Maidanam’ is featured on FIFA’s official website revealing Kerala’s special relationship with football. It is no wonder that even the international body of football has acknowledged the soccer-crazy people of Kerala.

This FIFA season saw a huge fan following for Argentina and Brazil in Kerala, where football fervour kick off engaging in debates, bets, and roadshows wearing blue and yellow jerseys. Keralites decked up the streets, villages, and cities with posters, banners, flags, and even cut-outs. Amidst the FIFA fever, a group of football lovers bought a house of Rs.23 lakh just to watch the match together took it up a notch. “Everyone in the area is welcome to watch the matches,” says one of the organiser. People painting colonies, bus shelters, vehicles and houses with Brazil and Argentina colours made it clear that it is nothing less than a festival for Keralites.

While Kerala is being largely discussed for its fierce devotion to football, the existence of football legends in the state’s history cannot be denied. The legendary IM Vijayan, whose name still reverberates in the hearts of soccer-loving Keralites is probably Kerala’s best footballer for many. V.P sathyan nicknamed ‘Captain’ starred for the Kerala state team and is one of the exceptional player Kerala witnessed. T. Abdul Rahman, popularly called Olympian Rahman is another celebrated name in Kerala football. Legendary names followed by C.V Pappachan, C.K Vineeth, K.T Chacko, Anas Edathodika, Jo Paul Ancheri are paragons that many names are yet to be carved in Kerala’s football history.

From kids to elders in the land down south enjoys and rever football like anything .The excitement and celebration from Santosh trophy to FIFA made Kerala one of the recognized states which possess a craze for football.

Nehna Mohamed is a third year English Literature student from Sree Krishna college,Guruvayoor.


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