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Clergy play to boot football

The Muslim clerics are playing a different ball in Mallapuram ? which eats breathes and drinks football.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 01:53 IST

The Muslim clerics are playing a different ball in Mallapuram — which eats breathes and drinks football. The game has suddenly become “evil” and minority organizations are busy weaning away the local youth from the World Cup frenzy.

Such is the panic that special classes are being held at madrasas to exorcise the “soccer” ghost and the clergy do not rule out a fatwa on the game. The cup fever has taken a toll on Friday prayers and Zidane and Ronaldo have overtaken the Ulemas on the popularity chart.

“We are not against football. But the madness is scary. When Argentina lost the Cup last time, a fan committed suicide. We don’t want such incidents to recur,” spokesman for the Samsatha Kerala Sunni Students Federation Salahuddin Faizi said. The hawks are worried at western intrusion. Fan clubs are swelling and vandals recently destroyed billboards of the English and German teams. The Samsatha Kerala Sunni Students Federation has held 30 brain-storming sessions so far. But not much has come out them. New flex boards keeps sprouting after every match. “If this is the pitch at the outset, it euphoria will veer out of control by the end. We have alerted the local mahal committees to keep vigil,” Faizi said.

The right-wingers have slammed the move saying it smacks of “religious intolerance”. “The clerics are worried about losing their say,” Muslim intellectual M.N. Karasserry said. But Mallapurram, bred on the nuances of the game, refuses to be cowed down. Flags of the countries playing the Cup flutter on the roadside. And footwork and freekicks are hottest topic in town. Souvenir sale has shot up and the youth sport the hairstyles of the reigning stars. The hardliners hate the splurge. “The local boys are draining money like water. They stay awake throughout the night and miss classes the next day,” a religious leader rued.

But Karasserry has the last word. “Politicians have splurged during the recent Assembly polls. Who are the religious leaders to dictate terms. The euphoria should be taken in the right spirit — sportingly,” he said.