As the camera pans over the lush green surroundings, viewers are introduced to some of James’s old teammates. Today, they’re small-time shop-owners and tailors, but their first love remains strong. Together, they even play matches, often barefoot, in the sand.

Recalling their prime, James says it is a lot easier today for football fans. “We would walk kilometres to catch a world cup match on a small black and white TV. Today, every little town has so many big screens for the public,” he says.

As James and his team’s story suggests, the craze for football isn’t a new phenomenon in Kerala. But it has grown over the years. Messi, Neymar, and Ronaldo are part of a pantheon of demigods here. Fans even paint their homes and vehicles in Argentinian and Brazilian colours. There are movies dedicated to the game and thousands descend upon stadiums every time the local team, the Kerala Blasters, is in the fray.

Kerala is one of the two such football bastions in India, the other being West Bengal, particularly Kolkata, which also goes into a frenzy over the game.

In any case, this isn’t the first time Kerala Tourism has used the state’s many quirks to welcome tourists. Last year, it released the award-winning “A Room with a View” campaign, which featured just a window to the state’s multicultural, multi-religious nature. There were Argentinian jerseys in that one, too. Kerala Tourism’s tagline, God’s Own Country, itself has caught the fancy of natives and non-natives alike for years.

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