Football can do with everything that will gain it more eyeballs at a time when the game is increasingly ceding popularity to cricket, going by the crowd turnout for matches.

Hence, the colourful inaugural ceremony was the perfect way to launch the latest edition of the Santosh Trophy at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium here on Thursday evening.

Vacant stands

A pity then that the festivities were played out in front of largely vacant stands.

The inaugural function named Keraleeyam featuring a variety of traditional art forms of the State got underway to the tune of a popular song extolling the virtues of God’s Own Country.

Even as the song played out in the background, students of a city school clad in traditional Malayali attire took the centre stage with a lighted lamp. They were encircled by another 100-odd student with Thalapoli.

The inaugural ceremony exuded youthful exuberance thanks to hundreds of students from 30-odd schools in and around the city.

Music of various hues from the faraway Goa to the traditional singarimelam, chendamelam, and panchavadyam hooked the music lovers.

If that was not enough, there were the swift aerobic moves presented to the tune of Brazilian music by students from various schools in Fort Kochi. Nothing will complete the history and tradition of Kerala without a mention of that demon king Mahabali.

So, there he was ushered into the middle of the pitch under the shade of decorated umbrellas. Traditional art forms like Thiruvathirakali, Margamkali, Daffumuttu, and Oppana added to the charm of the occasion.

As celebrations came to an end, football took centre stage with Goa and Chhattisgarh fighting it out in the floodlit stadium.

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