Kerala football wedding 1
A pre-wedding shoot involving the groom Roshan and bride Monisha in Thrissur. A clear illustration of the footballer fever in Kerala, when the World Cup takes place in Qatar. Image Credit: Twitter

What’s happening in Kerala? Mob violence in the name of football? That’s reprehensible. We know that the south Indian state of Kerala is home to some of India’s most avid football fans. More specifically, fans of Brazil and Argentina. But a gang fight is unimaginable in a state with 100 per cent literacy.

Football parades or rallies in support of Brazil and Argentina ahead of their games are common in Kerala when a World Cup comes around. They are largely peaceful, barring some heckling or jeering from supporters of rival teams. But the fight in Shaktikulangara in Kollam district on Sunday (November 20) surpassed all that.

When football fans clash in Kerala

Before the World Cup inauguration at the Al Bayt Stadium in Doha, Brazil and Argentina fans in the town of Shaktikulangara took out rallies in support of their teams. When the demonstrations passed what looked like a cemetery, fights broke out. Reports say it started with fisticuffs before flag-staff and iron pipes were used as it descended into a full-fledged brawl.

People wearing the yellow jerseys of Brazil (some had Neymar printed on the back) clashed with rivals in the blue and white Argentina colours. I spotted at least five of them with Messi and his No. 10 embossed on their shirts. A lone Cristiano Ronaldo supporter in a Portugal kit stood among the onlookers of the mayhem. In between, there were a few people with England flags; what were they doing in a Latin American clash? I really don’t know.


Although no complaint was filed, police in Kollam initiated legal action after the 90-second video went viral. The violence certainly besmirched the reputation of the football-crazy state.

Kerala’s affinity for the football of Latin American countries is well-known. It hits the headlines every time a World Cup comes around as houses, cars and even autorickshaws (three-wheeled cabs) in Malabar are painted in the colours of Brazil and Argentina. And in the neighbourhood, you will see people wearing their heroes’ jerseys: Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr are hero-worshipped, while Ronaldo also has supporters.

Why only Brazil and Argentina is the of-repeated question? There’s no satisfactory answer. Some say the game was implanted in Kerala by the Portuguese. That doesn’t answer the interest in Brazil and Argentina. The Pele-led Brazil’s victory in Mexico in 1970 and Mario Kempes-inspired Argentina triumphed in Buenos Aires in 1978 may have something to do with it.

Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo in Kerala

The enthusiasm exploded with the arrival of telecasts in 1982. The names of Brazilians Socrates, Zico, Falcao, Cerezo and Eder soon tripped off the lips of football fans, and Diego Maradona became the reigning deity in the eyes of others. Brazil and Argentina never dominated world football since the eighties. Maradona won the trophy for Argentina in 1986, their lone triumph after 1978. Brazil and Romario won it in 1994 before Ronaldo (Nazario) did the same eight years later.

That’s not enough to explain the cult status of Brazilian footballers in Kerala. Maybe, I can clarify it. I cheer for Brazil, and my interest stemmed from everything I read about their footballers. All the news and articles painted romantic images of Samba football artistry. That turned out to be true when television came into my life.

The fervour in Kerala went up several notches ahead of the World Cup in Qatar. The giant cutout images of Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo were installed on an islet in the river in Pullavoor village of Kozhikode. The photos were widely shared on social media. Even FIFA, the world football body, tweeted it, saying World Cup fever has hit Kerala.

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Not to be outdone, people in the Kasargod district erected massive cutouts of Messi and Ronaldo and the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani. That isn’t surprising since many expats in Qatar hail from this district, north of Kerala. In Eachur village of Kannur district, football fans organised a goal-scoring event,

Much of the football fever centred around the World Cup as several towns erected giant screens to watch the games in Qatar. That was understandable, given the interest in the sport. Bizarrely, that interest percolated to weddings too. At least two marriages in the Thrissur district reflected the passion for football.

Newlyweds Roshan and Monisha opted for a World Cup-themed wedding photoshoot. Roshan was Neymar Jr in Brazilian colours and Monisha sported Messi’s Argentina jersey as they posed for pictures. Latin American rivals under a roof: that happens only in Kerala. Predictably, the photos went viral.

There was no ambiguity in Jobin’s theme as he married Irene in St. Mary’s Church. A supporter of the Argentina football team, Jobin’s passion was reflected in the colours of balloons, festoons, bunting and banners. Blue and white were dominant at the St Aloysius Wedding Hall, where the reception was hosted.

Not just that. The cake resembled the Argentinian flag. And guests were served by staff wearing Argentina jerseys, reports quoted Jobin, who was awarded a replica of the FIFA World Cup trophy by his friends.

Talk about football passion, this certainly takes the cake.