By Debayan Mukherjee,
AIFF Media Team,
MANJERI: Even a veteran of many Kolkata Derbies – where the spectator count loiters around 90,000 to a lakh -- Syed Rahim Nabi could not believe his eyes when he saw the fanfare at the Malappuram District Sports Complex Stadium in Manjeri.
The former AIFF Player of the Year was left bedazzled.
“Kolkata Derbies attract crowd. But this is special. Look at the passion. And mind you, there are no Kerala Clubs playing in Manjeri. But you have a Full House,” he said at one breath.
“This is Football. This is what we Footballers live for – to play in front of the Crowd.”
Immediately after, he was seen waving frantically to the fans. If there were 30,000 inside, there were more outside. Unfortunately, the seats, as in any Stadium, are limited.
“This can be a perfect place for more National-level Tournaments, even Team India Camps and International Matches,” Nabi certified.
From a distance you see the wave. You don’t see the faces; you just see the Heads; and hear the sound – the sound of drums and the vocal chords being stretched. Maintaining decibel levels? What’s that?
You try to overhear and gauge the local dialect. Tickets, you know, have been priced at Rs. 60, 100 and 150. But from the conversations you hear, you get to know that spectators are willing to dish out exorbitant sums, even as high as Rs. 2000. But the authorities keep a strict vigil.
“We haven’t seen something like this ever. Manjeri is a small Municipality and this is perhaps the biggest Event in the history of the place,” said Rafique, an engineering student from Mongam.
Echoing him, Gopa Kumar, a housewife from Kottakal said: ““I don’t know the names of all the Players. But it’s Football. If such Tournaments take place in Manjeri on a regular basis, it will be great. I have never seen something close to this ever.”
This will also help in throwing some light on the place and making it a known town in India,” Shahina, a school teacher by profession, who came to watch the first match between Dempo and Bhowanipore FC quipped.
It’s hard to even speak to the person sitting next. Every moment, there’s the roar. The crowd erupts, settle down and erupt again.
It is the first major National-level football tournament taking place in this district and a rare opportunity for the fans.
“It is like a big fat festival for them. It is sort of a big get-together. You can see children and women taking the street in equal measure. They all want to be part of history,” Mr. Abdul Kareem, President District Football Association & Vice Chairman Organising Committee informs www.the-aiff.com.
“People only talk about Airtel I-League venues like Kolkata, Shillong and Goa. But come to Kerala where Airtel I-League does not take place, yet you will find stronger crowds coming to the Stadium for smaller matches than those being played now. I remember the Final of the Santosh trophy last year between Kerala and Services in Kochi last year. The atmosphere was electric,” you don’t miss his pride.
“Fans have allegiance to a certain Club. But here the allegiance is towards Football. Otherwise how will you describe the same person chanting simultaneously for Dempo SC and Bhowanipore at the same time,” Sports journalist Jafar Khan argues. “All roads lead to Football.”
You can’t disagree.
Past noon, with the Sun shining bright, you see shops shutting down fast. The shopkeepers speak in the local dialect again. You understand they are all proceeding to the Stadium.
It’s a Football Curfew in Manjeri!
Posted on : Thursday January 16, 2014