The World Cup is a celebration which has no parallel. On Sunday, as 3.6 billion supporters all over the world tune in to the finale to Russia 2018, the frenzy will be no less in tiny Kerala.
In fact, fans here have been euphoric for over a month, glued to television sets and getting into animated discussions on the game, the teams, and their heroes. Nothing different from the past World Cups. But what has kicked up a debate now is the promotion of the event through countless flex boards across the State. To that extent, the celebration has been different.
Though there has been no official accounting of the money spent on the multicoloured boards, media reports put the figures from Rs. 300 crore to Rs. 700 crore. While this does seem to be an exaggeration, as claimed by the Kerala Flex Printing Association, the issue has drawn sharply contrasting views in the State.
Environmentalists, predictably, are unhappy with the non-biodegradable nature of these boards and have called for a total ban on the plastic materials that go into their production.
Interestingly, those involved with the sporting circles in the State too are divided, with one section supporting the fans while a vast majority condemning it, saying that the money could have been channelised better for the benefit of Kerala football, the reigning champions of the Santosh Trophy.
K. Bodhanandan, former secretary of the Kerala Football Association, said, “I do not approve of this. It would have been better had the fans erected goals posts in nearby schools and painted them in colours of their favourite teams. It would have rendered the celebrations more meaningful.”
Former international V.P. Shaji hoped that the huge surge in support for Russia 2018 would prove to be an eye-opener for the government and the top football officials in Kerala.
“No one can wish away the spontaneity displayed by the fans of the game in the State. It shows that the game has a strong support base in our State and that pragmatic schemes for promotion of the game will have the support of our people too.”
‘How is it quantified?’
However, former member of the State Planning Board C.P. John, a self-confessed fan of the game, has a different take on the subject. “How can you quantify such a festival or the money spent to celebrate it? The World Cup has taught us quite a few lessons over the years and I see this expression of interest by fans of the game in the State as an interpretation of a new way of life, which is anti-parochial and more importantly a mature display of nationalism beyond boundaries, underlining a new political narrative of the present world order.”
While at least a few non-governmental organisations have collected the used flex materials and turned them into additional coverings for thatched huts in the State, Sports Minister A.C. Moideen admitted that putting curbs on the fans would be impractical.
Plan for ‘Kick-Off’
“Instead we are planning to launch a new programme christened “Kick-Off” in collaboration with the General Education Department to unearth fresh talent at the school level.”
The debate on the usage of flex boards will not die down soon as we wait for Sunday night and henceforth look forward to Qatar 2022. However, the amount spent by fans in the State on Russia 2018 is likely to remain as a matter of conjecture, forever.
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