A group of men from Malappuram revel in their game on Kozhikode beach during Id season

The time was around 2 a.m. It was pouring and the Kozhikode beach was deserted. Cutting through the night and the sheets of water was a scream that went “GOAL!”

Human forms hard to spot in the darkness were running about at the far end of the beach where their ground seems to exist. Their only source of light was the faint reflections from an advertisement hoarding placed a bit away.

A goal has been scored at a post which itself stood almost invisible.

If you assumed them to be a bunch of insomniac neighbourhood kids, you are mistaken.

These are grown up men who have travelled 40 odd kilometers from Tirurangadi in the neighbouring Malappuram district to have a go at the ball. It is an annual ritual for them during the Id-ul-Fitr season.

Four days a year

“We have been coming here annually for the past three to four years. We play only on Saturday night. So, the matches are played only on four days in a year. The matches start around 12 a.m. and sometimes go on till 3.30 a.m. We return in time for the morning prayers,” says T. Mubarak, one of the players.

The group consists of more than 30 men with ages ranging from 20 to 40. Unmindful of the rain or the darkness, they go about the business with precise passes and well-directed shots on goal.

“Last week, all the streetlights that line the beach were working and so we did not have much of a problem. But today only the lights near the main walkway are working and so we are playing almost in darkness. Still we manage well,” says Shoukath.

Id spirit

Don’t they have grounds near Tirurangadi? Why travel all the way?

“It’s not about just playing football alone. We reach here late in the evening, hang around a bit and then head to Kuttichira to savour the fare at the Id special eateries. The game is part of this whole festive atmosphere. Otherwise, we could have just played in our own backyard,” says Shoukath.

‘Foreign players’

They say that the group boasts of a whole bunch of ‘foreign players.’ Not from the international club football transfer rosters, but people who work abroad and come down for their annual vacation.

“This football get-together has now become a major attraction of our Id vacation,” says S. Shajeer, one of the ‘foreign players’ who works in Saudi Arabia.