Ahead of FIFA World Cup, Football-Crazy Keralites Launch Cropped War

By Rohit Thayyil

Kozhikode's football craze reaches its climax in 'paradoxical' Kerala ahead of the FIFA World Cup, when gigantic figures of Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. and Cristiano Ronaldo erected along a picturesque river running through this district from northern Kerala attracted worldwide attention.

As the marquee tournament kicks off in Qatar later this month, soccer craze has taken hold in this southern state and fan sites, which largely celebrate the South American nations that dominate the game, They have started to go viral.

Kerala, known for its love of soccer, drew global attention last week when a group of Argentinian soccer fans erected a 30-foot-tall cutout of Messi on a small island in the river in the town of Pullavoor weeks before of the World Cup in Qatar.

If Argentina is included, can Brazil be left behind? Keralite Brasil supporters erected a 40-foot-high cleavage of Neymar Jr on the riverbank to fuel competition between supporters of the two stars.

It wasn't long before Messi and Neymar Jr were outshone by another 45-foot-plus Cristiano Ronaldo in the Portuguese jersey. Fans capitalized on his widely shared image of him preparing for a free kick at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Incidentally, FIFA tweeted a picture of the cutouts and said "World Cup fever has taken over Kerala." Prime Minister Pinarayi Vijayan thanked world football's governing body for "recognizing our unmatched enthusiasm for the sport". Kerala's love of football will "be on full display" with the World Cup, he said in a tweet.

"These clippings were widely shared by the official fan sites of Argentina and Brazil," Nibinraj, a resident of a nearby area, told PTI ET.

The Argentine soccer team, an unconfirmed Facebook page with more than 4.23 million likes and followers, published the image of Messi's cleavage on November 1, which went viral.

Numerous fan sites, including the one in Brazil, shared the viral images.

According to PV Sreenijan MLA, who may be chairman of the District Sports Council in Ernakulam and Officer of the District Football Association, the history of national association football says that it has had a great impact on the people of Kerala.

“The Mohun Bagan and East Bengal clubs, in addition to winning the Santosh Trophy in 1973, among other things, attracted a whole generation to football. Keralites are also big fans of (Deigo) Maradona, Pele. The history of Argentina and Latin American football literature was readily available to Keralites in the form of books and newspapers,” advised Mr. Sreenijan PTI as he traced the Malayali community's love of football.

A popular social media deal with @Advaidism, who is an ardent Arsenal membership supporter, said such is the passion for football in Kerala that before every FIFA World Cup, half the state helps Brazil , while the other half supports the Argentine soccer team. .

“Kerala is a paradoxical Indian state where football is much more popular than cricket. Kerala hosted the Santosh Trophy in the 1950s and won it in the 1970s. Kerala enjoyed a golden age from 1985 to 1995 by reaching seven consecutive Santhosh Trophy finals and since then football has become a sport iconic in the southern Indian state,” said the social media executive, whose name was not released.

Kerala has produced many talented footballers like IM Vijayan, CV Pappachan, VP Sathyan and CK Vineeth. Today the 'Sevens' football tournament could be very popular in Kerala, said @Advaidism.

Even the delusion of cuts has its critics. A lawyer claiming to be an activist filed a complaint with the Chathamangalam Panchayat to remove the structures, claiming they could interfere with the pure movement of the river.

The place borders Chathamangalam Panchayat and Koduvally township. The municipal authorities declare that it is half of their territory. Local bodybuilding authorities said they had no plans to remove the cuts.

Kunnamangalam MLA PTA Rahim said that the sport of football unites people from all nations and languages and that is why it is met with joy by football fans.

"There is no basis to argue that the cutouts of Messi and Neymar used in Pullavur (sic) should be removed. The place where the cutouts were placed is on the border between Chathamangalam GP (Grama Panchayat) and Koduvalli township...part provided by GoK for NIT's drinking water system," Rahim tweeted.

He said that he visited the site and it was confirmed that the cuts installed in the area adjacent to the National Institute of Technology, the Calicut control dam, will in no way affect the pure circulation of the river.

Meanwhile, a tragic incident was reported in Kannur on November 5 when a 48-year-old man, a die-hard fan from Brazil, who was trying to tie a banner to a tree, died after falling.

When Argentina won the Copa América in 2021, Kerala's roads were as polluted as any Latin American road.

ESPN Argentina later shared a video of Argentinian fans in Kerala swaying in the streets with joy.

Kerala can also witness friendly chat between enthusiastic legislators who are making political footprints through two grassroots groups, Brazil and Argentina.

The now standard battle of the executives on social networks this time began with the State Minister of Education, V Sivankutty, cheering Brazil on with a banner saying that the soccer giants will lift this edition of the World Cup.

Subsequently, MLAs P Mammikutty, M Vijin, M Naushad, VK Prasanth and LDF President EP Jayarajan, among others, supported Argentina.

MLAs KM Sachindev and KT Jaleel supported Brazil, among others.