In a white dhoti and shirt, a beaming ‘Lionel Messi’ greets you at the entrance of Ninamvallappu, a coastal village on the outskirts of Kozhikode in north Kerala. Then there is a roaring ‘Neymar’ perched on a coconut tree nearby. In the sweltering sun, youngsters in gaudy jerseys are dribbling with colourful balls and a few metres away, K Saleem, a sales representative, is mulling over the prospect of his team winning FIFA laurels to compensate his 2010 loss.
The World Cup may be happening continents away, but you could be mistaken into thinking it is being held near Ninamvalappu, Kozhikode. Cheering fan clubs, imposing cutouts, colourful headbands and flags of participating countries are aflutter everywhere. Newspaper vendors say their circulation has gone up. To cash in on the event, electronic giants have announced special schemes for LED/LCD TVs. Curio shops selling World Cup jerseys and bands are set to make a killing. The FIFA theme song by Jennifer Lopez is blaring out though some say Colombian beauty Shakira’s number from the last big event was better.