Football is a great leveller. If there is anything that unites the members of the CPM, Congress and BJP in Kerala, is is the beautiful game. They lined up as a team for Brazil or Argentina and consoled each others when their favourite teams were booted out of the World Cup.
Several political leaders in Kerala have rescheduled their programs and travel plans since the kickoff in Russia a month ago. Minister V S Sunil Kumar was expected to reach Ernakulam to attend a programme on Wednesday morning but he rushed to the Aluva Guest House on Wednesday evening to watch the semifinal between England and Croatia.
Muslim League MLA P K Basheer has excused himself from any public programme after 8 pm since the tournament started. CPM veteran M V Jayarajan, the private secretary to the chief minister, made sure that he offered an analysis of the every match on Facebook despite his hectic schedule.
Football and politics were always fused to each other. Karl Marx batted for football during the World Trade Union meeting in 1866. He urged workers to enjoy a game of football during the recess. The African sunrise in football has validated Marx’s prophecy that the game would blur the distinction between black and white.
Football, like politics, appeals to the populace. Both fronts raise hopes and thrive on uncertainties. Footballers and politicians enjoy success and the downfall of opponents.
Teamwork is the key in both the fields but we also enjoy individual brilliance. Self goals are a part of the game in politics too.
Fanboys for life
Politicians vouch for football because it is the most popular game, said former chief minister A K Antony. The World Cup mania has energised the Indian football too, he said. The Congress veteran still harbours in himself a football-crazed boy from Cherthala.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala may be drawing from his experience as a goalkeeper at the Mahatma School in his hometown when he launches the offensive against the treasury benches in the assembly. Chennithala calls himself a football fan who did not want to publicise his passion. He has watched almost all the matches.
The most famous football fans in the political class in the state have to be CPM’s M A Baby and CPI’s Pannyan Raveendran. Baby, a politburo member of his party, is in a strange predicament. The final is being fought by France and Croatia, two team which played a key role in Argentina’s exit from the World Cup.
Pannyan, CPI’s former state secretary, has taken the fall of his favourite teams in its stride. “The vacuum created by the exit of Messi and Ronaldo has been filled by newer stars like Mbape and Lukaku. Football is popular because it effaces the boundaries of regions, religions and races,” he said.
Batting for the underdogs
Electricity minister M M Mani added to the football mania when he posted a photo of himself in an Argentinian jersey. “I was saddened by Argentina’s exit. But what is the point in sulking over it? I watched the others’ games,” he said.
Who will Kerala back officially in Sunday’s final? State sports minister A C Moideen took a fair-play approach. “Let excellence win in Russia.”
Congress leader V D Satheesan was more focused. “As politicians, we always stand by the weaker sections. So let it be Croatia this time.”
The link between football and politics was underlined this year when George Weah, the FIFA footballer of the year in 1995, was elected as Liberia’s president. Let the game rule!