Football fans flow to north Kerala river to view Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo

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Giant cutouts of football World Cup stars at Pullavoor.

Giant cutouts of football World Cup stars at Pullavoor.
| Photo Credit: K. RAGESH

The bridge over the Cherupuzha river at Pullavoor, about 45 minutes’ drive from here, is brimming with people on an 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 Mr. 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 and 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 one of the football fans 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 that 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 30-ft tall Messi was the first to make an appearance. Rather expectedly, a taller Neymar soon emerged on 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 will obstruct the natural flow of the river. The Kozhikode District Collector has asked the Koduvally municipality to look into it.

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

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