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'Malayalis United' - How fans all over the world are gearing up for Kerala Blasters' ISL final clash?

9:53 AM IST 20/03/22
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There are screenings being held all over the world including Canada...

They love their football, down in Kerala. The people in the south-western state of India have always been crazy about the game. Kids having a kick-about in whatever space they can muster and grown-ups bonding over the latest game of football they’ve seen is common in Kerala.

Kerala has produced footballing stars galore, from Olympian Rahman to Captain Mani to VP Sathyan to the great IM Vijayan. Then there were teams Malayalis carried in their hearts. There were the state Santosh Trophy teams. There was the Kerala Police team in the 80s and 90s. Then there was FC Kochin.

And in the last decade, no sporting entity has remotely managed to capture Kerala’s imagination like Kerala Blasters have. The Indian Super League (ISL) club has been championing Kerala’s love for the game for almost eight years now. In this period, they’ve reached three ISL finals. They lost two and are about to play their third on Sunday.

And, as expected, Malayalis are pumped. Especially since this moment has come after four seasons of disappointing results. They stuck by the team through those disappointments and now, they are making it count.

Though this season of the ISL, for a second consecutive edition, has been played behind closed doors, the Manjappada have been supporting their team in every way they can. The images from the fan park in Kochi when Blasters managed to seal a spot in the final spoke volumes.

With the final being opened for fans, plenty of Malayalis have travelled to Goa to cheer their team on as they try to win their first-ever ISL title.

But that’s not all. The whole of Kerala will be supporting the club from their homes and the various fan parties that have been organised all over the state. But the support for Kerala Blasters does not end there. It goes far beyond Kerala.

The club has united Malayalis all over the world. In fact, there are fans donning the yellow preparing for Sunday’s summit clash in countries like the UK, USA, Canada, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and more.

In Canada, the screening is being conducted in association with the Toronto Malayalee Samajam (the cultural organisation for Keralites living in Toronto). In fact, for Blasters fans in the USA and Canada, this is an occasion they’ve waited a long time for.

“We have a lot of members here and have been waiting for this moment for so long. This is the very first time we're having a meet up. The Manjappada Canada and USA wing has been in effect since 2020. As the Covid outbreak and restrictions were in effect during the time, we couldn't do anything so far. But we always talk a lot about Indian Football and especially Kerala Blasters in our group since then,” Basil, one of the coordinators for Manjappada’s USA and Canada wing, told Goal.

“This is the very first time we are getting a chance to get together to cheer and support our team. And yeah, we are all set for the screening which is happening here on Sunday at 10 am,” he added.

And this has been the culmination of a long wait for Blasters fans. They’ve had to wait to see the team enjoy a semblance of success. And that wait has made this season even sweeter for them.

“I don't really know how to express what we feel right now through words. This season has been fantastic and all praise to Karolis (Skinkys) and Ivan (Vukomanovic). They built this team within no time,” he said.

The same excitement is shared by the considerable number of Blasters fans in UAE. The Middle-Eastern country has a large Malayali diaspora (and is often considered Kerala's 15th district). And there are fan parks organised all over Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. In fact, most of these fan parks are already booked to full capacity. There is also a live screening at the Dubai Expo as well!

“All my friends are going to the screening in Dubai. It is already sold out. We are all excited beyond measure,” Faiz VB, a Dubai-based Kerala Blasters fan, told Goal.

It’s the same scenario in Qatar as well. Manjappada members in Doha have arranged for big screens and are expecting a full house for the final.

“It has been a long-awaited moment, we are not able to make it to the stands in Goa, but will watch together and celebrate every moment with the fans here. The hard work of the players, the technical and coaching staff has yielded this result. We, as fans, got much more than what we could have asked for,” Deepesh Govindan Kutty, Manjappada Qatar President, told The Peninsula.

There are similar screenings in other countries including the UK. All this highlights how Kerala Blasters have transcended the state of Kerala. It has become an emotion for Malayalis all over the world. With Malayalis united behind them, Kerala Blasters will hope to give them a night to remember on Sunday.