By Yoonus Bin Muhmmed
For a host of reasons, Malabar still shines brighter than any other region in India, when it comes to its intrinsic ‘football mania’. As the 2014 Fifa World Cup is underway, the residents of the Malabar region in Kerala celebrate it with their blood, sweat, and, even, tears. Not only have they been going crazy over Brazil, the genuine homeland of the sport and the host of the World Cup, they are mad for other teams as well. With just some days left for the final, a vast number of associations for fans have sprouted like mushrooms among its residents. Despite numerous political conundrums at the state and the national level, the residents of Malabar remain highly competitive, decorating their streets and roads, with mega-sized posters of Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and other demigods of football. In all of Kerala, it is in the Malabar that one could see feverish celebrations in any village, town, junction and on the road. The supporters could be seen carrying the flags of their favorite teams and cut-outs of star players. The supporters seem to seek a paradigm shift by moving away from the usual debates surrounding politics and, instead, engage in football chats. While huge flags of England, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Portugal, and Germany adorn roads in Malabar, some parts of the city have painted graffiti. Soccer fever is spreading like an epidemic in Malabar.
Seeing such humongous hoardings and cut-outs, fixed atop the roads in Malabar, one wonders if the World Cup is being hosted on their own soil. The preparations made to welcome the event are much beyond what one would normally think of. Unlike in other regions, the football fever is rooted in the veins of Malabar and goes much deeper.
Along with the star players’ elegant cut-outs, the banners highlight a side’s advantages and strengths over its rivals and list the rivals’ feebleness. Sometimes the banners issue stark and aggressive warning against its rivals: ‘No Kakas will fly over Messi’ (Kaka means crow in Malyalam), suggesting the usual rivalry between Brazil and Argentina!
‘Roses went unwanted, dogs went unwalked, wives went untouched’, a commentator had this to say while commenting on the Ashes and the Wimbledon. Truth be told, the same goes for scores of fervid fans in the Malabar region. Like in an election campaign, they hold mass rallies through the streets, with huge flex boards of favorite teams attached to their vehicles. Here, in Malabar, everybody wakes up to football, breathes it, dreams of it, lives for it, and devotes himself to it.
Will Messi mesmerize again? Or will Ronaldo rule the roost? Can Scolari’s gamble pay off? Can Lahm’s side strike gold at ease? Their anxieties with heightened expectations know no boundaries. Most of the coffee shops and hotels happen to host intense debates about various aspects of the mega event, ranging from the Cup’s probables to the prospects of different teams. Footbal umbrellas, sandals, and even dresses bearing the flags and names of different countries sell in dozens.
During the celebration of the victory of a local political party that fielded only two candidates and both secured thumping victory, the fervent activists carried their party flag in one hand and, making us burst into laughter, the flags of their dearest football teams in another. Politics and soccer seem like the two sides of the same coin, both suffused with a spirit of competitiveness.
With the phenomenal kick off of the extravaganza, even the pocket roads appear jam-packed and the sports clubs hire skilled musicians to enhance the celebrations. Malabar is the lone place, where you can find the banners of relatively feeble sides like Ghana and North Korea. Rather than love for these teams, it is a symbolic gesture by the people to announce the arrival of the World Cup. Seeing the profusion of enormous banners, set up by Argentina and Brazil fans, one might think that the Malabar residents support only these two countries. They certainly prefer them to other countries. Argentina and Brazil are dissolved in their blood and spirit. Between June 12 and July 13, buses, auto-rickshaws, and taxis, painted vividly in their favorite teams’ jersey colors, will stop plying as the owners stay glued to televisions.
Some residents of Malbar have been boasting of christening their streets as Argentina Nagar and Brazil Nagar.
Despite sporadic rains, election hangover, and an unexplained stoicism plaguing the preparations of hardcore fans, the festivities still match those of the previous years’ celebrations. Because of the advanced technologies, the craze spills on to the social media. The flex battles on the streets in different sizes and shapes go with frequent posting, sharing, tweeting, and retweeting their respective teams’ progress.
This World Cup, Malabar is football crazy, to say the least.
Yoonus Bin Muhmmed completed a degree in English Literature at the University of Calicut, Kerala.
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