The streets of Kerala resembled that of Argentina on the night of December 18 when the Latin American nation lifted the football World Cup in Qatar after a gap of 36 years. Old and young, children and women, soccer fans were out screaming out of joy, bursting firecrackers, shouting the name of Lionel Messi, blowing trumpets and horns, celebrating Argentina’s win by dancing on the streets.
Thousands of people across Kerala celebrated Argentina’s penalty shootout win over France in the 2022 FIFA World Cup final. The East Fort area and Vanchiyoor in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, were literally crowded at midnight with fans wearing Argentina jerseys celebrating the victory. Various parts of Kochi city also witnessed huge celebrations with firecrackers, and trumpets blowing when Messi lifted the World Cup for Argentina.
Television channels showed the celebrations on the streets of several towns, cities, and villages of the southern state as the South American team defeated France in the penalty shootout after 120 minutes of play resulted in a 3-3 stalemate. “Vamos,” fans, donning the Argentina jersey, were seen shouting as they jumped up and down and danced around with each other unable to contain their joy.
Some were too excited to even answer reporters’ queries on how they were feeling and just responded with screams and incoherent shouts.
Excitement all over
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan, Assembly Speaker M.B. Rajesh, various state ministers, MLAs, and movie stars including Mammootty and Mohanlal shared their excitement over Argentina’s triumph.
In a Facebook post, Vijayan congratulated Argentina for the World Cup victory. “Congratulations to Argentina who won the football World Cup. Lionel Messi led Argentina to victory -- the most precious achievement of his career,” he said. He said unique expressions of the beautiful game of football were witnessed throughout the tournament.
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Mammootty and Mohanlal, the two big stars of the Malayalam movie industry were at the Lusail stadium in Qatar to witness the title clash between Argentina and France.
“What a Night !!! What a Game !! Absolute Goosebumps !! Thrilled to have witnessed probably one of the greatest ever football match. Congrats Argentina and Magical messi on conquering the world. Well Played #France and Kylian Mbappe,” Mammootty posted on Facebook.
Mohanlal, who also posted a picture of himself at the stadium, said it was a glorious final in which two worthy opponents played their hearts out and gave millions of football fans a “nerve-wracking match”.
“Congratulations Argentina on a hard won victory. 36 years of toil and the cup is once again yours. Leo Messi has kept his date with destiny and will bow out in glory. A glorious last dance...Kudos to Kylian Mbappe and the French team for being such worthy opponents and for the great fight they put up till the end. Well done Qatar,” Mohanlal said.
Former state minister and senior Left leader M.M. Mani, MLA, who is a die-hard Argentina fan, watched the match on a big screen at his constituency in Idukki district. “There will be people who attack us...there will be people who criticise us...None of that concerns us. What a final... Both are great teams. Thanks to the critics, you are our energy...It was a great match. France was a good opponent. Mbappe is good,” Mani said.
Speaker Rajesh said it was a beautiful final that kept football fans across the world on their toes, showcasing the beauty, drama, and uncertainty of the game. “We said we (Argentina) will win. Argentina created history. Messi ki jai,” jubilant fans were shown shouting in various TV channels.
Some others said, ”Neymar came, Ronaldo came, but it was Messi who walked away with the cup.” However, in many places, the celebrations led to minor violence injuring many including a few policemen.
At Kannur, a few persons including a police official were injured during multiple incidents of scuffles at various parts in the district. At Kochi, a case was registered against five persons for allegedly attacking a civil police officer during a celebration at Kaloor junction. In Pozhiyoor area of Thiruvananthapuram district, a police officer was injured when a man in an inebriated condition attacked him during a big screen telecast of the World Cup final.
Cutouts of stars grab global attention
Kerala, known for its love for football, caught global attention last month when a group of Argentinian soccer fans in Pullavoor village of Kozhikode erected a 30-feet cutout of Messi over a small islet weeks ahead of the World Cup.
Subsequently, Brazil fans erected a 40-ft cutout of Neymar Jr along the banks of the river, spicing up the contest between supporters of the two stars. However, both stars were overshadowed by yet another over 45-ft Cristiano Ronaldo cutout wearing the Portugal jersey. Incidentally, FIFA tweeted a picture of the cutouts, saying world cup “fever has hit Kerala.”
In 2021, when Argentina won the Copa America, the streets of Kerala were as charged as any Latin American street. During the football season, it has now become customary for enthusiastic legislators in Kerala cutting across political lines to engage in a social media banter over their two favourite teams, Brazil and Argentina.
Goa erupts in joy
In Goa, make-shift mini projectors were put up at a number of places for people to watch the World Cup final. After the match ended, a number of supporters of the Argentina national team were seen celebrating on streets in Goa during the night.
Politicians including Goa’s former deputy chief minister Vijai Sardesai and Congress MLA Altone D’Costa were seen supporting Argentina as they watched the final along with their fans wearing the jersey of their favourite team.
After the match, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant tweeted, “Congratulations Argentina! Goan football fans witnessed one of the most thrilling #FIFAWorldCup Final!” Bharatiya Janata Party’s Goa unit president Sadanand Shet Tanavade also took to Twitter to congratulate the winning team.
BJP MLA Dr Deviya Rane in a tweet said, “What a spectacular win by #Argentina well played and well deserved! Truly the greatest of all times!”
Celebrations go awry in Manipur
A 50-year-old woman was killed in Imphal after being hit by a stray bullet fired by unidentified revellers celebrating Argentina’s world cup win, police said on December 19. The incident happened at Singjamei Wangma Bheigapati locality in Manipur’s Imphal East district around 11.30 pm on December 18, they said.
Family members of the deceased said sounds of loud firecrackers and gunshots reverberated as soon as frenzied celebrations started following Argentina’s victory over France. Two bullet holes were found on the first floor of her residence, which is built with galvanised iron sheets, a senior police officer said. “While one bullet struck her back, another went through the GI sheets,” he said.
Police and forensic teams have started an investigation to establish the direction from which the bullets were fired, the officer said. Meanwhile, her family members have said they would not perform the last rites unless the culprits are identified and arrested.
(with agency inputs from PTI)