As we went down the green winding paths of a small village in Kannur, little boys in brown shorts clutched their toys and stared at us. For them, a sudden furor in their otherwise quiet neighborhood was a surprise. For us, it was an even bigger surprise, knowing the roots of one of Indian football’s best attacking wingers.
Having been brought up in a normal middle class family, Vineeth C K’s father was a school teacher and his mother, a housewife. He went to a boarding school, and would write back longingly for peanut bars and biscuits, ending his weekly correspondence with a big signoff of kisses. His mother fondly remembered the letters, and spoke of his tantrums as a child. Nothing has changed – Vineeth’s popularity in Kannur is nothing less than that of a movie star. He knows it well, but addresses warmly, scolding them at times, and being the child they all knew him as. This is the love we saw, showered during his wedding to his college sweetheart, last month. People swarmed the house, had funny flex banners put up, and Vineeth walked through all this nonchalantly, like he expected nothing less. For all these people, he was “muth” (Malayalam for ‘pearl’), the true son of the soil, who made it big from his humble roots, from the green patches of their land to a world of Indian football.
The Facebook profile pictures of many in Kannur, for a long time to come, would be a selfie with the captain of the India Football Team – Sunil Chhetri, who attended the wedding of his teammate. While the star player of Indian football attended the two day long celebrations in Kannur, news of his arrival flashed across the village, and into the city. Vineeth had indeed made them proud – here was the finest Indian football player posing for photographs, eating Thalassery Biriyani, and interacting with them like one amongst them. Chhetri patiently posed for every photo, shook every hand that got stretched, said “Nice to meet you” to every single smile that came his way, hugged and kissed little starry eyed children, and stayed grounded through it all. Chhetri’s presence made people believe that the game they loved and worshipped was rooted strongly with players who knew not just their game, but also never forgot their journey of hard work and dedication.
Vineeth’s journey to the Indian Football team is one of hard work, patience and dedication, and so is the story of every player who plays the game of football in India today. With authorities turning a near blind eye to the game and its growth, the stories of such successes is what makes it worth to believe in the magic of a beautiful game called football.
Sreedhanya decided to pen this light note after attending Vineeth CK’s wedding in Kerala.