We’ve often seen commentators going ballistic on air when a spectacular goal is scored, but it’s generally reserved to the eccentric Spanish or Arabic commentaries of the La Liga or the Premier League.
When Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo struck that jaw-dropping free-kick against Spain last Friday, most viewers were left speechless at Ronaldo's sheer skill, but one man’s reaction to the goal, in Malayalam, took India by storm.
Meet Shaiju Damodaran, the voice behind the viral clip. It seemed like just another day in the commentary box for Shaiju but come Ronaldo’s goal, he went out full throttle.
Talking to Sportstar about his newfound fame, Shaiju humbly replies, “I've been getting so many calls and my phone is buzzing with messages, but frankly, I don't think I did anything extraordinary. I'm a professional commentator and this is part of my job. ”
“I'm just a guy who likes to talk. I've loved to talk since childhood and I simply do the same in the commentary box,” he adds.
Shaiju, though, isn’t new to commentary. The 45-year-old had a brief stint with the Celebrity Cricket League and was later chosen to cover the Indian Super League (ISL). Interestingly, Shaiju holds the distinction of being a part of the commentary box across all the matches in the four seasons of the ISL.
"Every season, one or two of my clips go viral, but mostly only with Malayalis. One of the most memorable incidents was during season 3 of the ISL, when the semifinal between Kerala Blasters and Delhi Dynamos went into a penalty shootout. Kerala won 3-0 and I spoke about how Steve Coppel and Sachin Tendulkar had created a stellar team by using lines from the popular Malayalam song Poomaram . This was very well-received and went viral among Malayalis.”
He goes on to add, “The difference between that instance and the Ronaldo clip is that this video went viral across the country because it has Cristiano Ronaldo in it. The World Cup is a global event and thus it's getting more attention.”
Having worked as a sports journalist with Kerala newspaper Mathrubhumi for 20 years, Shaiju’s love for the sport grew on the job. “I’ve always played cricket and it was during my time with Mathrubhumi, where I was assigned the football beat, that I developed a passion for the sport,” he remarks.
Ask Shaiju who his favourite commentator is, and he doesn’t simply give you a name. He impersonates a celebrated Englishman, whose lines on Lionel Messi are known to every Barcelona fan. Of course, it’s the iconic Ray Hudson. “Ray is my idol. The way he describes the matches give me goosebumps!” Shaiju reveals with childlike joy.
Shaiju now hopes to someday commentate in the same league as his idol. “I have been receiving tons of messages asking me if I will commentate on English Premier League and La Liga matches as well. I hope I get an opportunity to do this, for it would certainly be a dream come true for me.”