On Friday evening, Mary Poovakottu had just come home from the funeral of her 21-year-old son, Nicholas Johnson. Covering the floral tributes on the white coffin was a number 10 jersey with the name Totti. The former Italian footballer had sent it signed to Nicholas, after learning about the passion that the young man had for the game and especially his admiration for Francesco Totti.
Nicholas was born and raised in Rome, Italy, the country his parents had migrated to 35 years earlier. Mary, a native of Ettumanoor in Kottayam, had been working as a nurse in the foreign country. Her husband, Johnson Kandathiparambil from Thoppumpady, was also working in Italy. He passed away seven years earlier during a trip to Kerala. And now her son, just 21, passed away after a seven day coma following a car accident which took place on February 2. The story first appeared in The New Indian Express.
âThis is how it is. Nicholasâs funeral happened on the same day of his dadâs death anniversary,â says the bereaved mother to TNM, after the funeral. She gave her consent to the hospital authorities when they asked if Nicholasâs organs can be donated.
âPerhaps because I have been working for years as a nurse, I could say yes immediately. But in this way, Nicholas can save so many lives. Thatâs the little peace you get out of all this sorrow,â Mary says.
In the days that he spent at the ICU, Nicholasâs friends and his sister Stephanie had reached out to football players, especially Totti. Quite a few of them responded, wishing him to get well soon. Totti sent the signed jersey that Nicholasâs coffin would later be covered in. Friends of Nicholas also raised a huge banner labelled âForza (Force / power) Nicholasâ for a game of AS Roma, his favourite football club. AS Roma posted two tweets when Nicholas passed away, saying goodbye to âdear brother Nicholasâ.
With profound sorrow and broken hearts, we say goodbye to our dear brother - Nicholas Kandathiparambil.â AS Roma India (@ASRomaIndia) February 9, 2020
We pray that his near and dear ones have enough strength to withstand the great loss.May his soul rest in peace
You will always be with us, Nicky! â¤ď¸ pic.twitter.com/XvMIXssplz
Rest in Peace, Nicholas Kanda. Romanista forever â¤ď¸ pic.twitter.com/RUI0dxnyy6â AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) February 10, 2020
âPlayers had also sent video messages which Nicholasâs sister Stephanie used to show him, but he was in a coma and we have no way of knowing if he saw or heard it,â Mary says.
Nicholas had been passionate about football ever since he was a little child. So much so that the parents sent him to train in football at the junior school of Italyâs national team. âHe went there till Class 5. After that, we sent him to Kerala to learn the culture and the ways of where we come from. He went to school in Kottayam from Class 6 to 12, often visiting his grandparents who stayed nearby and coming back to Rome for the holidays. Even there, heâd play for inter school football competitions. He had the jerseys of all the football teams,â Mary says.
After school, influenced by the Indian propensity to choosing engineering or medicine for college, Nicholas had initially joined an automobile engineering course. But, realising that his calling was football, Nicholas went to college in the Netherlands, choosing to study Sports Management. Heâd visit his family in Rome for the holidays and it is during one such visit that the accident happened.