Meet Kerala's Saudi Arabia fans, rooting for their second home in Qatar World Cup

L-R: Expats from Saudi Arabia in front of a hoarding they erected in Lakkidi, in Palakkad. (L-R) Muhammed Kutty, Abdul Raheem, Nissar, Sreekuttan, Mohammed Riyas and Sulfikar. Photo: Special arrangement

When Saudi Arabia shocked favourites Argentina 2-1 in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar Tuesday afternoon, firecrackers were burst in the village of Lakkidi near Ottapalam in Kerala's Palakkad district.

No, it wasn't the fans of Brazil mocking the mighty fall of Lionel Messi and co. This was the doing of a group of loyal Saudi Arabia fans in Kerala.

The celebrations were a show of devotion by a group of non-resident Indians employed in Saudi Arabia.

"Everywhere you see, there are fans of Argentina, Brazil, England, France and all the favourite nations. But we thought we should support the nation where we are employed," said Abdul Raheem.

The 33-year-old and a handful of expats, who are on a break in their hometown, Lakkidi, had planted a hoarding dedicated to Saudi Arabia, one of the least fancied of the 32 competing nations in the world cup.

On Tuesday, they huddled at a local football club, Inter Milan Lakkidi that was showing the match on a big screen for the locals. Mohammed Riyas, 32, who has worked for eight years in Jeddah as a driver, was also present.

While the majority in attendance watched in disbelief as Saudi bounced back from an early goal to script one of the biggest upsets in world cup history, Riyas wasn't surprised.

"See, this result shows why one shouldn't underestimate any team. For the last two years, Saudi has conceded very few goals. They are a well-knit side," Riyas said.

Muhammed Kutty, a veteran expat hailing from the region, was in a rush to leave the screening at full-time. He was jubilant and posed for a few pictures with fellow-Saudi supporters, but rushed back home soon after as he has a flight to catch early morning.

Meanwhile, Riyas spills out the expats' shared desire: "Our dream is to see our country, India, play in the World Cup. When that happens we won't be supporting Saudi, our full support will be for Team India. We hope that happens one day," said Riyas.

'The land that feeds my family'
Lakkidi is not the only region with supporters for Saudi Arabia. Peringode in Palakkad and Thaikkavumukku in Kollam and many other pockets have fans of The Green Falcons.

Peringode-native Jaya Krishnan wrote on his Facebook page: "I'm not an Argentina hater. I'm not against any country. But Saudi feeds my family. For the last 11 years, that land has provided for us so I had wished for their success. I had prayed for them."

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.