Thiruvananthapuram, May 29 (IANS) With the football World Cup set to start in South Africa in a fortnight’s time, millions of lovers of the game in Kerala are gearing up for the fiesta as the sport is followed passionately in the state.
The enthusiasm is already visible on the streets, especially in the districts of north Kerala and Malappuram, as the June 11-July 11 event approaches. Shops too have piled up soccer memorabilia.
Flags, banners and cutouts of the teams and star players are getting ready. Some of the cutouts of Brazil, Germany, Argentina, France, Italy, not to mention Ivory Coast, have already found their way to the streets. Over the next few days, giant size pictures of stars like Kaka, Robinho, Thiery Henry, Lionel Messi, Theo Walcott, Didier Drogba, Peter Crouch will signal the arrival of the World Cup.
In the central Kerala district of Kottayam, unlike in the past, this time the enthusiasm has gathered momentum early with various clubs and shops piling up stocks of banners, posters and jerseys.
‘In the last World Cup we were not ready because we were not sure if we would be able to do business in selling the national jerseys of various teams and were a bit cautious,’ said a textile shop owner near Kottayam.
‘Once the event started, we did get a steady number of inquiries, but by then it was too late. So this time we have made arrangements with leading manufacturers that they would supply us any number of jerseys at short notice.’
Football enthusiast and two time independent legislator Manjalamkuzhi Ali, who hails from Malappuram, said as always he would follow the Brazilians.
‘But this time, I do not have high hopes of how far they will reach. Even though they are capable of making an impact, they are equally capable of disappointing their fans. Let us wait and see. This time any prediction will be tough, but nevertheless it is going to be a few weeks of football mania,’ Ali told IANS.
With the IPL fiasco and the Indian cricket team crashing out of the T20 World Cup last month, for the time being cricket has taken a back seat and children as well as youth are concentrating on football.
‘I am a keen football fan. During my 90 minutes of travel to college everyday, I have observed that interest in football has picked up,’ remarked Shreya Punnoose studying in a college in Pathanamthitta.
Sports shops in the state capital are leaving nothing to chance as they stock up footballs, jerseys, boots and stockings.
‘We are fully ready with stocks and sales are gradually picking up. Sales will peak once the first round of matches gets into high gear,’ said C. Rajesh who owns a premier sports shop.
To whip up football passion across the state, former players of Kerala Police are organising an exhibition football match against a rest of Kerala team comprising veterans like former India captain Xavier Pious, Victor Manjila and Najummudin.
‘We feel this is the right time to have an exhibition football match to be held here so that the mood is created in the minds of Keralites,’ senior police officer P.P. Thobias told IANS.
Thobias, who captained the Indian youth football team and also donned the colours for the senior national team, said he will put his money on Brazil.
There is a hitch though. With a leading cable distribution company having a dispute with sports channels over telecast rates, football fans in Kerala are wondering if they be able to catch the action live on their television sets
(Sanu George can be contacted at [email protected])