Name Game

The Maradona of Malappuram

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Kerala’s soccer mania has had sons being named after international football legends
PK Maradona was born in 1987 in God’s own country, a year after Diego Maradona lifted the World Cup with the ‘Hand of God’. His father K Chathukkutty, a vegetable vendor in Malappuram district, could not think of any other name for his newborn. A 27-year-old now, Maradona works with a private bank. He loves football though he does not play the game.

Argentina remains his favourite team and LionelMessi his favourite player. “Being Maradona, how can I shift my loyalty to any other team?” asks Maradona, who will not miss a single match in the FIFA World Cup. He is proud of his name, but it often gets complicated. He would always be the target of teachers wanting to check homework or throw questions from lessons taught previously. When caught riding a bike without a helmet, the cops would get furious when he would disclose his name, thinking it was a prank. He would only be let off after producing his driver’s licence and voter ID card. Maradona would love to name his son— if and when he has one—after a soccer legend.

Nineteen-year-old Romario and14-year-old Bebeto are siblings from Ernakulum who embody their father’s love for the Brazilian duo of the 90s. Romario was born in 1994, the year in which the Brazilian Romário lifted the World Cup. His brother Bebeto, a student of class 12, is a state player at the junior level. Their father TR Babu, a small-time contractor, is proud of his children for living up to their ‘names’. Babu is also a local level player and Brazil remains his team for the World Cup.

Three brothers of Kochi— Donadoni, Baggio and Zamarano—were named after the Italian footballers. Donadoni used to play school-level football but his father Snehajan, a daily wage earner, did not have the resources to further his son’s career in soccer, even though he dreamt of his kids playing at higher levels.