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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 July 2024

Kerala fans plea to PM Modi to ensure live telecast of Copa America 2024 matches

The Nainamvalappu Football Fans Association, based in Kozhikode, on Thursday faxed a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office seeking his help in getting the matches broadcast for Indian viewers on a sports channel or Doordarshan

K.M. Rakesh Bengaluru Published 23.06.24, 06:47 AM
Giant cutouts of Lionel Messi and Neymar in Pullavoor, Kozhikode, during the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. The cutouts had even grabbed the attention of FIFA.

Giant cutouts of Lionel Messi and Neymar in Pullavoor, Kozhikode, during the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. The cutouts had even grabbed the attention of FIFA. File picture

A prominent football fan club in Kerala has reached out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to ensure live telecast of the Copa America 2024 matches currently under way in the US.

Many Indian football fans have been left heartbroken by the absence of live telecast or live-streaming in India of the Copa America, scheduled from June 20 to July 14.

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The Nainamvalappu Football Fans Association, based in Kozhikode, on Thursday faxed a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office seeking his help in getting the matches broadcast for Indian viewers on a sports channel or Doordarshan.

In the letter, the association highlighted football’s immense popularity in India, underscoring the appeal of South American teams such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Colombia, which have iconic players such as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal.

“As you are aware, football is the world’s largest and most popular game and it has millions of fans in India alone,” the association wrote to Modi.

It emphasised that denying Indian football enthusiasts the chance to witness these stars in action would be a pity.

The founder-president of the association, N.V. Subair, told The Telegraph on Saturday: “This edition of Copa America is perhaps the last time we can see Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal playing in a big tournament in their national colours. By not telecasting the games in India, football fans are being robbed of a great opportunity to see them and their teams perform.”

Quite like Bengal, football fans in Kerala are split between Argentina and Brazil, with small sections supporting Portugal, England or Germany which are playing in the ongoing Euro 2024 in Germany.

“We are screening Euro at our association office where a large number of fans gather for each game. This only goes to show the kind of following football has in Kerala, and hence being denied a chance to watch the Copa America is grossly unfair,” Subair said.

He recalled how DD Sports broadcast the Copa America in the ‘90s and said the PMO could help football fans by asking the national broadcaster, Doordarshan, to televise the games.

While Euro 2024 matches are being broadcast on Sony Sports, there has been a significant demand on social media for Copa America coverage. Although there were initial reports about online platforms possibly streaming the tournament, no concrete plans have been announced.

“As a football fan I feel that such matches must be broadcast on television since (watching) online is not a good option. Football is to be watched and enjoyed in groups and not sitting in front of someone’s computer or mobile phone. Even screen-mirroring online content to the big screens is non-viable because of poor bandwidth,” Subair said.

Although the PMO is yet to respond to the letter, Subair is hopeful.

Hifsul Rahman, owner of the KMG Football Club based in Mavoor, Kozhikode, said his club too was considering writing to the government to broadcast the games.

“All football fans, whether in Kerala or elsewhere, feel let down with no opportunity to watch the Copa America. I don’t even know why these games are not being broadcast in India when even smaller nations are showing them live,” Rahman said.

A nationally registered football club that is a regular at seven-a-side tournaments in north Kerala, KMG FC has been screening the Euro.

The skyline in the state, especially in north Kerala districts such as Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur, Kasaragod and Wayanad, gets dotted with giant cutouts of star players like Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo during football World Cups.

Argentina’s national football association had expressed willingness to play two friendlies in Kerala in October 2025 after realising the massive support for the Albiceleste in the Indian state.

Argentina’s ambassador to India, Hugo Javier Gobbi, had hosted Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a reception in Delhi in April 2023 in a gesture of thanksgiving for the support the state’s football fans had extended to the South American team at the 2022 World Cup.

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