From Kasaragod in North Kerala to Trivandrum in the south, the streets of the state have been festooned with posters and flexes of various teams and players.

Road shows banners and banter How Kerala is getting ready for the FIFA World Cup
news FIFA World Cup Wednesday, June 06, 2018 - 17:42

The FIFA World Cup 2018 is scheduled to start only on June 14, but Argentina and Brazil have already faced off at the Kottapadi stadium in Kerala’s Malappuram district.

How? The teams had neither Argentinian players nor Brazilian players! Instead, it was played between the team’s supporters in Kerala.

This is just one of the many ways by which the state is celebrating the arrival of one of its favourite events – the FIFA World Cup.

Safuvan, the President of the Kerala Blasters fan club, Manjappada, says that the excitement for the World Cup surpasses everything else in the state —  be it politics, films or cricket.

From Kasaragod in North Kerala to Trivandrum in the south, the streets of the state have been festooned with posters and flexes of various teams and players, with the supporters of each team trying to outdo the other in terms of the size, powerful quotes and of course, banter.

“Recently, the Kannur district collector came up with an order banning flexes regarding the FIFA World Cup as there are already tons of flexes in and around Kannur district,” says Safuvan.

The festivities in the state generally begin a month before the actual tournament kicks off. The festivities include road shows and processions by fans, vehicles painted in the colors of various teams, and banners with quotes about their favourite teams and players, often written in Malayalam. One of the posters put up by fans of the Brazil team says: “We are coming to Russia to settle old scores. It’s better no one stands in our way!”

Ahmed, a football fan from Kozhikode, says that while the football fever may have dampened for a few years, it is back in full swing.

“There was a brief period of silence among the football fans in the state a few years back. But now with the arrival of teams like Kerala Blasters FC, the Gokulam Kerala FC and the state winning the Santosh trophy, the football fever is at its peak in the state,” he says.

Districts, towns and villages across the state have locally formed sports and arts clubs.

“These clubs generally work for the welfare of sports and games in their area. However, when the World Cup season arrives, they are divided into Argentina fans or Brazil fans or whichever team they support,” Safuvan says.

“Normally on the days leading to the world cup, all these clubs come up with various friendly tournaments where they will be playing against each other in the name of the countries they support,” he adds.

Even though Argentina and Brazil are state favourites, there is a huge following for teams such as Portugal, Spain and Germany as well.

“If you think that Mammootty and Mohanlal fans are the craziest in Kerala, then you definitely have not seen Messi and Ronaldo fans in the state,” says Ahmed, laughing.

There were apprehensions this time around that the festivities would be restrained as the days leading up to the World Cup fall during Ramzan.

“Nothing can stop us from loving the game we love. For the people in Kerala, football is also a religion,” says Ahmed.

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