FIFA World Cup: Festival of Malabar- Day 1: Perinthalmanna, Malappuram District

The game of football is almost synonymous with the district of Malappuram, especially the small towns of Perinthalmanna, Mampad and Morayur. It is widely believed that the shorter and interesting version of football game, The Sevens football, originated in the town of Perinthalmanna. The Sevens football season begins in the month of December in the district and continues till the arrival of the monsoons. Malappuram district hosts nearly two-fifths of the Sevens football tournaments held across the State of Kerala. Other famous venues are Areekode, Kottakkal, and Tirurangadi.

So I started my hunt for football fans from Perinthalmanna in Malappuram District. I borrowed my brother-in-law’s bike for the trip since it gave me more flexibility and ease of movement, but the only catch – it was the month of June and heavy rains lashed as monsoon reached its peak in Kerala. By around 11.30 am, I reached Garima Sports and Fitness, one of the leading sports store in the region. Earlier in the day I had met Mr. Hassan, Secretary of Khadir Ali sports club. Khadir Ali club is one of the leading soccer clubs in the Malappuram region. The club conducts various 7’s football tournaments in and around the district. Mr. Hassan suggested I visit Garima stores to get a feel of various merchandising available during the World Cup season.

Also read Football and Malabar

FIFA World Cup: Festival of Malabar- Football and Malabar

Football has always been a passion for Malayalees, much before the formation of the state of Kerala. In the 1930s, there were several Amateur Football clubs throughout Malabar in the princely states of Kochi and Travancore. And there were lots of famous players who were very skillful. Another interesting fact is that teams from far off places like Karachi and Bengal would come and play exhibition matches with the local clubs. Those were the early Football tournaments organized by the various clubs.

The region also takes pride in its very own football legends; Olympian Rahman, VP Sathyan and many. The Sait Nagjee All India Football Tournament, held since 1952, attracts large crowds from all over Kerala.

FIFA World Cup: Festival of Malabar Part 1

Yet another FIFA World Cup! Even though cricket dominates India’s life more than the national sport of hockey, football has a decent fan following in spite of India’s pathetic show in recent times. India’s FIFA ranking stands at 167 out of 200.Way back in October 2007, in the preliminary to the qualifying stage; we were knocked out by Lebanon! The game is hardly played in any of the states other than Kerala, West Bengal and Goa. Still millions of Indians are die hard football fans.

When it comes to Kerala, especially, the northern part known as Malabar, football is an inseparable part. There is no better time than the World Cup football season to understand how much the people of Malabar love the game. The preparation for the World Cup soccer celebration starts months before the actual event. The entire region is decorated with banners and flags of various World Cup football playing nations. Various clubs organize exhibition matches. There are road shows where fans of various soccer playing nations participate. Live shows of World Cup matches are another interesting aspect of the season. Each and every junction in Malabar area has a LCD TV where you will see groups of people huddled around the telly at the time of kick offs.

Travels through Malabar during a World Cup season

The Idea of travelling through Malabar came when my friend sent me pictures of flex banners dedicated to Argentina and Brazil. Fans of various soccer playing nations spend huge amounts of money for printing and mounting these banners here. The banners show the real passion of people in northern Kerala for football. Hence in order to get a first hand account of the celebrations, during the 2010 World Cup season, I decided to travel through the main Soccer-loving districts of Kerala viz., Palakkad, Malappuram and Kozhikode to celebrate the spirit of FIFA World Cup with diehard fans of the game, document interesting stories and capture their images. The idea was to pick up as much news related to World Cup football as I could, meet these soccer fans, locate World Cup-related special merchandising and understand in detail the activities of various local soccer clubs.

Next: Football and Malabar