“We will not take it, because Gods cannot die.” The Malayali social media has been flooded with such posts since 10 pm on Wednesday (November 25). For the people of Kerala united by football, Maradona was nothing less. He is remembered even by those who do not watch football as if he were a Malayali.
Che, Fidel, Marquez and Maradona — for the people of Kerala have a unique place in their hearts as if they write, speak and play in Malayalam. As far as the Malayalis are concerned, Maradona is more than a football legend. He is remembered not only for the immeasurable enthusiasm created on each epic moment of goal, not only for that goal of the century in 1986 FIFA world cup, not only for his masterly control over the ball, but also for his ferocious political statements too. Maradona’s love and respect for the other two legends — Che and Fidel — also embodies the Malayali imagination of Latin America, a combination of anti-imperial political ideology, football and literature.
Maradona’s tattooed pictures go viral in Kerala not only for the love for Maradona but also for the love of those who have been tattooed Fidel and Che.
The Kerala government did not hesitate to join the people in mourning over the loss of football legend. A two-day mourning (Nov 26 and 27) has been declared by E P Jayarajan, the Minister for Sports. “Despite being the king of football, he was one among the masses,” says Jayarajan.
“Football is the most beautiful sport in the world,” says Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister. “Kerala would be the place having the largest fan base for him outside Argentina. For every World Cup after 1986, Kerala has his hoardings in every nook and corner. Maradona was a friend of Cuba and Fidel which also shows his uncompromising views against imperialism,” says the Chief Minister in a touching obituary to Maradona. “He was a great footballer and a great socialist too,” CM’s concluding statement emulates the true emotions of an average Malayali who has a passion for football and politics.
I.M. Vijayan, India’s legendary footballer, who has had personal acquaintance with Maradona, is too emotional to respond. “An irreparable loss. I am lucky that I had the opportunity to meet him and spend time with him,” says Vijayan who is generally shy of facing the media. Vijayan’s love for Maradona does not need any endorsement as far the Malayali people are concerned.
Kerala’s Malappuram district is stricken with grief and shock. “We all are calling each other, we are not able to take it yet,” says Basheer Thiroorangadi, an ardent fan. “We all grew up watching the beauty of Maradona’s game. We all stood with Argentina because of Maradona,” says Basheer who went for a fast the previous day of Argentina’s match with Iceland in 2018 World Cup. Basheer is right. Despite being trolled by Brazil Fans, the Argentina fans of Malappuram were never ready to switch their loyalty not only for their love for Messi but also for their devotion towards the legend.
Basheer came to know about the demise of Maradona late Nov 25, when he was busy with sticking posters for the panchayat elections. “We all were together on the campaign front. Everyone is shocked and is in no mood to return to the campaign,” says Basheer.
Several remembrance meetings have been planned in Malappuram on November 26 and tomorrow. “We also have to take part in the national strike. Yet we are planning to conduct remembrance meetings tomorrow if not possible today” says Basheer.
P K Maradona of Melmuri in Malappuram does not play football, but is a fan of Argentina. He was born in 1986 .His father Chathukkutty could not imagine any other name for his son. The young Maradona hated his name as his friends used to laugh at him for his unique name. “Later I learned who the real Maradona is and have been proud of my name,” says P K Maradona who works in a private bank instead of playing football.