U-17 World Cup diaries: A headless statue, Vinicius fever

The curious case of the headless statue

At the main entrance to the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata, venue for the V-17 World Cup Group F matches and the final on October 28, stands a mighty statue of beauty and wonder.

Okay, at least wonder.

The sturdy legs of a footballer confidently stand astride, with magnificent calf muscles and what look like Diego Maradona-quality thighs. You wouldn't want to be the goalkeeper facing a close-range volley from those legs. Except there's a very good chance you wouldn't, because at the top of the waistband of the soccer shorts, no impressive torso stretches. What occupies the space meant for the human abdomen upwards, is a globe. Aka a football with the Biswa Bangla (the world comes to Bengal) slogan on it.

The statue has been "conceived and designed" by the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and there is little knowing whether it has been reviewed by Kolkata's seniormost art critics, given that it is the newest, most topical piece of public sculpture in the city. Passersby quite like the statue, taking photographs and selfies, approving of its aesthetics calling it "bhishan bhalo, bhishon shoondor... (very good, very beautiful)." The policemen who guard the gates giggle when asked what they think about it. They have no answers to the question of where exactly is the rest of the body? If there is no body, where's the heart? One of the cops is a quick wit, "It's a Bengali heart - It's in the football."

Touche. Mamatadi would approve.

(By Sharda Ugra)

Vinicius Junior: Absent, but not forgotten

Apart from the usual mania that Kochi brings to a football match, a stall outside the stadium caught my attention. The stall was selling shirts of Brazil U-17 player Vinicius Junior, who at the last moment did not travel for the U-17 World Cup. Although Vinicius is a well-known player in Brazil who was in the news when he was sold to Real Madrid for €45 million in May, it was surprising to know he was well-known in Kerala, considering he is still just an U-17 player.

The stall had hundreds of Vinicius jerseys, with a billboard reading "We miss you" and "Brazilian wonderkid" On asking how he know about the player, the owner said, "We are from Mallapuram, we love Brazil and we know all the players. We were waiting to see Vinicius play, so we miss him. We printed these only two days ago. Don't take us lightly, we know our football."

Mallapuram is one of the regions in Kerala that has a huge football following. But this was still unexpected and goes to show, once again, that football is Kerala's main obsession. After Beef fry, of course.

(By Arjun Namboothiri)