Messi or Neymar? Yellow or blue? Kerala village splits in two

There was a looming Neymar just a few paces ahead of the ‘Messiah’ as he walked on water. As they stood on the banks of the Kurungattu Kadavu river, Ronaldo towered over them all with his 45-foot height.

A picture of cut-outs of three of the sport’s greatest players taken last week from Pullavoor village in Kerala’s Kozhikode district captured the height of football fever in a state already preparing for the FIFA World Cup, to be held in Qatar in four years.

The international soccer governing body, FIFA, shared a photograph of the cutouts in the Pullavoor river and tweeted, “#FIFAWorldCup fever has hit Kerala.”

In response to FIFA’s acknowledgment that Kerala is devoted to football, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted: “Kerala and Keralites have always loved football, and it is on full display with the upcoming World Cup in Qatar in 2022.”. We are grateful to FIFA for recognizing our unmatched passion for the game.”.

Even though they are a bit amused by their village’s sudden attention, Pullavoor football fans are not surprised. It has always been a carnival for us to attend football world cups. We also put up a giant Argentina flag across the river last time, and that created quite a buzz,” says Jabir, 28, an owner of a jewellery store.

Again, Jabir came up with the design around 6 months ago, featuring a cutout of Messi in the middle of the stream.

Argentinian Messi and Brazilian Neymar have divided Pullavoor, a village of Gulf expatriates in the Kunnamangalam block of Kozhikode, in recent years. It has been a lifelong passion for Jabir to follow Messi.

“After we erected Messi’s cutout, Neymar fans outdid us by installing a 40-foot cutout of their idol. However, everything was carried out in a positive manner. In no way did we feel snubbed. The best view can be obtained from a bridge near the river. There is no doubt that these cut-outs are a sight to behold! As he beams, he says, “Now, the entire world knows about our village.”.

Akbar, who erected the Neymar cut-out with his friends, explains, “Messi fans were trying to poke us, so we put up Neymar.”

There was an elaborate plan involved in the Neymar fans’ comeback. Approximately 75 Brazil fans are members of a WhatsApp group. After bringing up the proposal to install a cut out of Neymar in the river, I was able to persuade the group to contribute. It was also the work of many non-resident Keralites,” says Akbar, 29, who owns a mobile phone store in the community.

A magnanimous display of sportsmanship was displayed by the fans when they decided Ronaldo, another GOAT, should not be forgotten. In spite of the fact that there are only four or five Ronaldo fans present, we felt it necessary to give them a representation as well. In order to fund the cut-out, Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo fans pooled their funds,” says Akbar.

With a height of 45 feet, Ronaldo’s cut-out turned out to be the tallest.

It was debated whether the cut-outs were impeding the flow of the river – and a complaint was filed with the Koduvally Municipality – as is usual in Kerala.

‘We have always been a football-loving crowd’, says Abdu Vellara, chairperson of the Koduvally Municipality. It is a tradition in our village to celebrate boisterously. In the past, private individuals would screen matches in the village, but this year, our municipality decided to install a huge screen so everyone could watch the matches. No, the cutouts are not going to obstruct the river. I find the controversy to be completely unfounded.”

According to MLA PTA Rahim, the controversy is unwarranted, “I visited the spot today and observed many people photographing the cut-outs.”. Locals are overjoyed by all the attention.

The New Friends ground is a popular gathering place for both children and men on most evenings. However, today, with the World Cut frenzy gaining momentum, the ‘players’ have traded their shirts for the jerseys of their favourite teams, primarily Argentina’s striped blue and Brazil’s yellow. It is common for players to roar loudly during tackles and occasionally as they send the ball racing across the ground. It is a silent acknowledgement of Pullavoor’s passion for the sport that the cut-outs sway in the evening breeze at the Kurungattu Kadavu river nearby.

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