Football frenzy sets in as fans across the city make plans to watch the beautiful game in the company of their families and friends

Over the next 32 days, an estimated four billion people will watch 64 matches of the FIFA World Cup played across Brazil. Thousands of them will be denizens of the city. Families will fight and friends will feud, and yet huddle together in front of television screens to watch world class players from 32 nations play the game. As the Reds say, football is not a game to be watched alone.

Take, for example, the folk of Puthenthope, a coastal village on the outskirts of the city, home to the annual all-Kerala Jaihind football tournament, organised by Jaihind, the local vayanashala. The entire village has gotten into the spirit of the World Cup. At each junction there are huge posters of their favourite teams and young men and children are to be found playing footie on the beach or on one of the fields in and around the village, almost all of them in their favourite team jerseys.

A few hardcore Brazil fans have even erected a replica of Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, which stands guard over a playing field adjacent to a church. “The current craze among the youth of the village is to click selfies in front of the statue, dressed in Brazil gear,” says Kiran, the captain of a local football team that comprises students and young professionals. “Most of us are Brazil fans because there is something magical about their samba style of football. The team is exciting to watch and they come up with totally unpredictable moves. Besides, this year they have the great Luiz Felipe Scolari back as coach along with a crop of energetic youngsters in the team such as Neymar and Thiago Silva,” he adds, as several other team members nod in agreement. The lone Italian fan in the group, who is incidentally named Platini, after French football legend Michel Platini, gets a bit of good-natured drubbing from his friends when he starts taking about the merits of the Azzuris. The two Argentina fans who try to put in a few words about Lionel Messi get the same treatment.

“Football and theatre are the two things that really brings community together,” says actor and Puthenthope native Alencier Ley Lopez. “During the World Cup, the vayanashala will hold screenings of the matches and the entire community, men and women, old and young will gather there to watch. It’s a festival-like atmosphere then and mind you, there are all people who are very serious about football, who know the in and outs of the game,” he adds.

Elsewhere in the city too there is camaraderie and rivalry as resident associations and fan clubs compete with each other to put up posters and cut-outs, again mostly of Brazil and Argentina’s teams and of football’s biggest stars. Some such as the Vanchiyoor Football Club are organising public screenings of the world cup matches. A couple of sports bars and clubs in the city too will be organising screenings, particularly the 16 matches that kick off at 9.30 p.m. Many other fans have made plans to watch the matches with their friends and family. “I like watching football matches with a boisterous group. It’s fun to watch wacky fans overreact, although in such situations you can’t really hear the game,” says Manu Ramesh, yet another Brazil fan. “During the last World Cup in South Africa, the residents association of the apartment block I live in screened matches in the common room and we had so much fun that we now get together for other major sporting events too. That way the women and children of the building can also join in the festivities and make it all the more fun,” adds the human resources executive.

Meanwhile, student Vinay P. and a bunch of college mates will be gathering at a friend’s place to watch the tournament unfold. “He has a huge television screen in his room. We’ll be getting together for all the important group stage matches, which we know will be exciting such as the England- Italy, Brazil-Croatia, Germany-Portugal matches, and all the matches from the quarterfinal stage to the final on July 14. My friend’s mom is a great cook and we’re all looking forward to tucking into aunty’s snacks, while we watch the game. Given the late night timings of the matches, in all likelihood it will be a month-long sleepover,” adds the youngster.

Football fan and trainee lawyer Cibila Manuel says: “I had exams during the last World Cup. So this time I am planning to make the most of my college vacation and watch the matches in the company of my younger brother. I am a fan of Cristiano Ronaldo, my brother is not. It should make for interesting viewing experience.”