A new season of ecstasy and celebration of football has started in Malabar even as fears of a new COVID-19 outbreak grow stronger by the day.
The seven-a-side football tournament season kicked off on Sunday evening with the start of the Khader-Ali tournament in Perinthalmanna, one of the biggest events of the season.
Seven-a-side football is an inseparable passion and source of joy for the people of Malabar, especially Malappuram.
After being deprived of a year of complete wit and joy by the pandemic, the football zest is back with a vengeance this time around. The participation in the opening match of the inaugural tournament held in Perinthalmanna was a testament to the passion of the people.
“The participation was exceptional. We had doubts about hosting the tournament this time around, especially since there are no foreign players, ”said Super Ashraf, Secretary General of State of the Sevens Football Association (SFA) .
This year, the SFA has banned the participation of foreign players in seven-a-side football due to fear of COVID-19. Even if it will be a big failure for the spectators, it will be a comfort for the organizers.
“Before, we had a lot of foreign players, especially Nigerians. We have decided not to allow foreign players this time around because it will be a big risk. The formalities associated with their arrival and the risk involved will not be worth it, especially during a short season ending in April, ”said Ashraf.
The SFA has sanctioned 28 tournaments this year. In the coming days, the spotlight will begin to shine from the rice paddies across Malabar, and thousands of cheers can be heard from galleries made up of bamboo and areca trees.
The size of the galleries will vary. In Perinthalmanna, the gallery has a capacity of 9,000 spectators.
While there won’t be teams from other states, players from other states can add steam. The teams compete to attract as many players as possible from other states.
“The presence of well-known players can add to the charm not only of the team, but also of the tournaments,” said Mr. Ashraf.
Each tournament with an average of 20 to 26 participating teams can take up to a month to complete. However, spending has risen sharply. A big tournament can cost almost ₹ 1 lakh per day. But with good-humored aficionados in numbers, the organizers are not worried. Their only concern remains a sudden outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting restrictions.