Thiruvananthapuram: With the bugle for the FIFA World Cup to sound in a few hours in Doha, the soccer-crazy people of Kerala have erected cut-outs of the Emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani along with the huge cut-outs of Argentina great Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Neymar Jr of Brazil too finds a place everywhere in the state as there is a dedicated fan club in Kerala for all the superstars of football.
The cut-out of Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani is erected at Kasargod. Abdul Rahiman, a Dubai-based businessman who is on a holiday here to watch football on TV along with his friends and relatives, while speaking to IANS said, “Qatar is a small country and they are organising the World Cup. As a thanksgiving to that, we thought of erecting the cut-out of the leader of Qatar along with superstars Messi and Ronaldo.”
In Eachur Panchayat of Kannur district, soccer-crazy fans have painted their homes in Argentina colours and a huge cut-out of Messi is seen at a bust intersection.
Sudhakaran, a tea-stall owner in Eachur while speaking to IANS said, “This village is full of Messi fans and I have painted my home in Argentina colours and we have erected a cut-out of Messi here. It’s Argentina who will lift the World Cup this time.”
Malappuram district of Kerala is synonymous with the game and seven-a-side matches are a rage in the district with each team procuring even international players from countries like Nigeria and Ghana to don their colours, paying a heavy fee.
Abdul Majeed, a local scrap dealer and a huge fan of Brazil, while speaking to IANS said, “It will be Brazil who will lift the Cup this time. I am going to Qatar along with my friends from the quarter-finals onwards. I’ve spent a fortune for the trip but soccer is in my blood and so it is in this village where everyone breathes football.”
The village has hoisted a huge cut-out of Neymar and Messi, which are 42 and 41 feet in height.
In Alappuzha and Ernakulam, the roads along the highways have cut-outs of Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo with soccer-crazy fans coming out in the streets wearing the jerseys of their favourite teams.
Kozhikode, which can easily be stated as the capital of Malabar in North Kerala is full of crazy soccer fans installing giant television sets at clubs and party offices with free flow of coffee and tea being served to the fans. Biscuits and other snacks are also provided.
Krishnakumar G.C., president of Friends Arts and Science Club, Bilathikulam, Kozhikode while speaking to IANS said, “It is interesting time. The club has bought a new television set and has erected a pandal for soccer fans to watch the World Cup. A huge fan following is here for stars like Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo. I am a fan of Portugal team and expect Ronaldo to perform exceedingly well.”
However most of the fans are reluctant to go to Qatar as the airlines have increased fares, ticket charges are high and accommodation is also costly. Most of them are interested to watch the World Cup from the comforts of their homes or from a club recreation room.
There are also many people who expect the host team Qatar to reach at least the quarterfinals of the tournament. Many of those who are rooting for Qatar are working in that country or their close relatives are working there.