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Kick-off sets the New Year ball rolling

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Staff Reporter

MALAPPURAM: A unique film festival began here on Saturday, offering football lovers the most fanciful gift for the New Year. According to the organisers, the festival is the first such in the country. Seventeen international films and documentaries on football are being screened at the mela, titled Kick-off. The six-day festival is expected to bring fans from even neighbouring districts to a venue where they will see some of the unforgettable moments and players of world football.

The mela kicked off with the screening of Giants of Brazil, an hour-long documentary portraying the Brazilian juggernaut from 1950 to 1994. About Maradona: Kicking the Habit, a film on the Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, followed the inaugural movie.

The other films screened on Saturday were Seven Days that Shook Sven, Bend it Like Beckham, and Pele Forever. The two-hour film on the football life of Pele had the biggest turnout.

Minister for Cultural Affairs A.P. Anilkumar inaugurated the mela on Saturday evening. According to Malappuram Manassu, a group of young men who organised the event, the mela will add yet another golden episode to the famed soccer mania of the land.

The next five days will see screening of some of the celebrated films from the soccer world. Among them are Maradona: Villain or Victim?, Escobar's Own Goal, Miracle of Bern, Escape to Victory, The Cup, Two Half-times in the Hell, Kaalo Harin, Garrincha the Lonely Star, When Saturday Comes and Shaolin Soccer.

"We have organised seminars, face-to-face programmes with film and soccer personalities, discussions, and a Ghazal night as well," said Madhu Janardhanan, convener of the mela.

The six-day Kick-off will also witness a rare get-together of football players of yesteryear. It will also provide an interface between soccer players of the old and new generations. "We expect to make it a historic moment for football in Malappuram," Mr. Janardhanan said.

Curtains will fall on the mela on January 5 evening, with a Ghazal rendering by Shahbaz Aman.

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