FIFA World Cup: Football fans flow to northern Kerala river to watch Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo

Even FIFA, football’s world governing body, took note. It tweeted a photograph of the cutouts.

The 30ft tall Messi was the first to make an appearance. Quite expectedly, a taller Neymar soon emerged from the river. Just as expectedly, an even taller Ronaldo dwarfed them before long.

The 30ft tall Messi was the first to make an appearance. Quite expectedly, a taller Neymar soon emerged from the river. Just as expectedly, an even taller Ronaldo dwarfed them before long. | Photo Credit: K. RAGESH

Even FIFA, football’s world governing body, took note. It tweeted a photograph of the cutouts.

The bridge over the Cherupuzha river at Pullavoor, about 45 minutes’ drive from here, is brimming with people on this overcast weekend afternoon. Among them is K.P. Asaj, who has come along with his wife and two little children.

“It’s even better than I expected,” says Asaj, looking at the massive cutouts of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo, erected on the river. “I am now on leave from my work in Abu Dhabi. I am a football fan, so when I came to know about these cutouts, I wanted to come here.”

He drove from the nearby town of Kunnamangalam. And there are visitors from distant places, including Lakshadweep, says K.P. Akbar, who is part of the football fans who were behind the cutouts.

“Since the 2002 World Cup, we have been expressing our passion for football in different ways and the last time we had a put up the Argentine flag across the river,” he says. “We never thought we would attract so much attention when we decided to make the cutouts.”

Even FIFA, football’s world governing body, took note. It tweeted a photograph of the cutouts.

The 30ft tall Messi was the first to make an appearance. Quite expectedly, a taller Neymar soon emerged from the river. Just as expectedly, an even taller Ronaldo dwarfed them before long. In these parts of the world, such intense competition among football fans is common, especially during the World Cup.

Not everyone is excited about these cutouts, though. A lawyer has filed a complaint that they would obstruct the river’s natural flow. The Kozhikode District Collector has asked the Koduvaly municipality to look into it.

Akbar says the local authorities, natives and political parties have been very supportive. “We will remove the cutouts once the World Cup is over,” he says.

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