Shaiju’s commentary during Cristiano Ronaldo’s 87th minute free kick goal against Spain in the World Cup game will leave you laughing even as you hang on to the edge of your seat.

The Shaiju Damodaran moment The Malayalam football commentator India is raving aboutShaiju Damodaran/ Facebook
news FIFA World Cup Monday, June 18, 2018 - 16:10

“Na vanthuten sollu...thirumbi vanthuten sollu.” Rajinikanth’s famous dialogue from the movie Kabali, was heard by scores of people who were glued to their TV sets on the night of June 15. But this time, it was not Rajini saying it, but a man fondly referred to by fans as the “superstar of Malayalam sports commentary” – Shaiju Damodaran. And while he was referring to Cristiano Ronaldo – it was a fitting dialogue, as Shaiju himself has ‘arrived’ in the imagination of India.

Malayalam football commentator Shaiju’s commentary during Cristiano Ronaldo’s 87th minute free kick goal against Spain in the World Cup game is energetic, throaty, passionate – and is bound to leave you laughing even as you hang on to the edge of your seat. His commentary-at-a-yell is something that Malayalis are now so used to, that many say, English commentary seems boring by comparison.

But while Malayalis have known, loved and loved to hate Shaiju for a while now, his commentary was a novelty for the rest of India, and the clip went viral on social media with even people who do not speak or understand the language sharing it.

Shaiju Damodaran

Among those who were fascinated with Shaiju’s commentary was the Mahindra Group executive chairman, Anand Mahindra.

“Ok that’s it. I’m switching to this channel with commentary in Malayalam. No, I don’t understand the language but I don’t need to – these guys are so pumped up that they make the English and Hindi commentators sound tame!” he tweeted.

Sports statistician Mohandas Menon shared: “Cristiano Ronaldo’s third (hat-trick) goal against Spain in #FIFAworldcup2018 with Malayalam commentary. Enjoy!”

Shaiju Damodaran is a familiar voice for football fans in Kerala for the passion and energy he brought into the field of commentary, especially when Kerala Blasters played in the Indian Super League (ISL).

Ever since the inception of ISL in 2014, Shaiju has become a household name in the state, as many football fans tune into Asianet movies just to listen to Shaiju’s commentary. While many love his commentary, others say it’s less commentary and more theatrics. Either way, he does draw in the numbers.

Shaiju has a career spanning over two decades in the field of sports journalism. Speaking to Asianetnews.tv in an interview in 2015, Shaiju said that apart from being a cricketer in the past, it was his two decade stint as a sports journalist that helped him shape his career as a football commentator.

When asked about whether he likes to be known as a sports journalist or as a sports commentator, Shaiju told Asianet news, “Once a journalist, always a journalist.” But he also went on to add that the love he received from the people because of sports commentary is more than what he would ever have received as a journalist.

Apart from being a commentator in the ISL, Shaiju has also given his voice for the popular Sevens Tournament in Kerala’s Malabar region. Shaiju’s voice was also heard in the match sequences in the Malayalam movie Captain, a biopic of former Kerala football captain VP Sathyan.

In 2017, when the Under 17 FIFA World Cup was held in Kochi, Shaiju worked as the venue media manager.  

Audiences in many states are in fact lapping up commentary in vernacular languages. Abraham, a football fan from Thiruvananthapuram says that unlike English commentary, local fans are able to connect with the game better when they watch a match in their local language.

“The best part about Malayalam commentary is that even the non-football watchers like me watch the games just because it is entertaining and also because the commentators explain the game in a way that a common person can understand,” says Maryanne, a recently-converted football fan from Bengaluru.

And why not, considering Shaiju peppers his commentary with references from movies and popular culture – which the fans find amusing and entertaining at the same time.  

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