FIFA World Cup

As the World Cup begins in Russia, meet Brazilia of Kozhikode (she’s betting on Brazil)

In 2010, she won a civic election thanks to the football crazy village of Ninan Valappu, which is currently set for a month-long celebration.

With the World Cup set to kick off on Thursday in Moscow, Brazilia Shamsudheen, a resident of Kozhikode in Kerala, over 6,000 km away from the Russian capital, hopes her favourite team will emerge champions in the quadrennial football extravaganza. “The abundantly talented Brazil will win the World Cup easily this time,” said Brazilia, 35, who runs a boutique – Brazi’s Fusion – in Kozhikode.

Brazilia, who prefers to go by her first name, says she is a born Brazil fan. “My team preference is etched in my name,” she said. “Hence, I cannot even think of supporting any other team.”

Her maternal uncle Shareef, a die-hard Brazil rooter, gave her the unusual name. “After my birth, relatives searched for a name that began with letter B as my sister’s name is Badariya,” she said. “Their search ended when my uncle suggested the name ‘Brazilia.’”

Brazilia is proud of her name. “I get noticed wherever I go thanks to my name,” she said. She believes it even helped her win a civic body election in October 2010, which made her a member of the Kozhikode Corporation. The election was held three months after Brazil lost the quarter-final of the World Cup in South Africa.

Brazilia contested as an independent candidate from Mukhadar ward of the civic corporation, with the support of the Indian Union Muslim League. She defeated her nearest rival by a margin of 1,286 votes. “I polled more votes in the football crazy neighbourhood of Ninan Valappu,” she said. “Fans who had placed their bets against Brazil in the World Cup just three months before voted for me.”

Football fans in Ninan Valappu agreed. “Her name played a role in her election victory,” said NV Subair, president of the Ninan Valappu Football Fans Association.

Brazilia’s five-year-term ended in 2015. She is now one of the state secretaries of Vanitha League, the women’s wing of the Indian Union Muslim League.

A Brazilian football fan paints a wall in Ninan Valappu in Kozhikode. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).
A Brazilian football fan paints a wall in Ninan Valappu in Kozhikode. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).

Crazy about football

Ninan Valappu village lies close to the Arabian Sea. Around 7,000 people live here in 500 homes. The place is believed to have got its name from the Ninan Mohammed mosque, the oldest of the six mosques here. Most of the village’s residents are either fisher people or carpenters.

Though football has been popular in Ninan Valappu, the game got wider public appeal when it was used in a drive against drug and alcohol abuse among youngsters a few years ago. “Youngsters were in the grip of drugs and alcohol two decades ago,” said Subair. “But the scenario changed after the formation of NFFA [Ninan Valappu Football Fans Association] in 1996.”

The association is an umbrella organisation of six football clubs in the village. Regularly organising coaching camps and tournaments, it provides a platform for young footballers to hone their skills. “Our initiatives drew youngsters – who would have fallen prey to drugs and alcohol – to football,” said M Shamsudheen, a member of the association. “Now we proudly say that football is the only spirit of our village.”

The combined effort of the Ninan Valappu Football Fans Association and the village’s six clubs has unearthed plenty of local talent. At present, 20 local players have donned the colours of various clubs in the Kozhikode district football association’s league championships and the state’s popular seven-a-side tournaments.

Fans and players never miss an opportunity to celebrate major football events across the globe – such as Copa America, Euro and the Champions League – and the Indian Super League back home. “But we always try to make the World Cup that comes once in four years a memorable one, and it will be no different this time,” said Subair.

Argentina fans put up this hoarding in Ninan Valappu in Kozhikode. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).
Argentina fans put up this hoarding in Ninan Valappu in Kozhikode. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).

Football fever

Football fever has gripped Ninan Valappu village ahead of the June 14 kick-off. In the run up to the big day, football fans were busy erecting hoardings of their favourite teams, painting walls with their team colours and hoisting team flags in all nooks and corners of the village.

The tiny village market, which has around 15 shops, has already turned into an assembly point of football aficionados, cutting across age barriers. They gather here to eagerly discuss the chances of the teams in the fray.

Outside a fish stall, on Tuesday, 60-year-old Abdul Rahman and 28-year-old Suhail were in the midst of a heated argument. Rahman predicted a victory for Argentina. “Messi missed the cup in 2014,” he said. “He will make amends this time by helping Argentina win the title on July 15.”

Suhail, an ardent Germany fan, made a quick counter. “It is impossible,” he said. “Messi can shine only in club football. This is going to be Germany’s cup. They will show the meaning of team effort. Let’s wait and watch.”

Fifteen-year-old Misbah, found strollig through the village, threw a question at this correspondent: “Who will win the Cup?” He then went on to provide the answer himself. “This time it will be Neymar and Brazil.”

Ahmed, a fish vendor and a football player, said Argentina and Brazil enjoy the maximum fan following in the village. “You can see more blue and yellow flags and hoardings [than other colours],” he said.

The Ninan Valappu Football Fans Association will add to the excitement by screening all the World Cup matches live on giant screens at the only government school in the village from Thursday till July 15, the day of the 2018 World Cup final.

“We will also organise a mini World Cup with eight teams named after Argentina, Brazil, England, Spain, Portugal, Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and Germany,” said Subair. “The players, drawn from a pool of local talent, will don the respective national colours.”

Brazil fan Subair of Ninan Valappu. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).
Brazil fan Subair of Ninan Valappu. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).

Booming business

Teams in the mini World Cup will get their jerseys and shorts stitched from a tailoring centre in Ninan Valappu run by two entrepreneurs – Beevi and Suhara. The tailoring unit, in a tiny room near the market, has specialised in stitching football jerseys, track suits and shorts since its launch in 2012.

The two women, both from poor families, started the unit together. They got little work in the beginning, but it soon picked up. “Football fans turned our fortunes around,” said 30-year-old Beevi. “Now we don’t have time to meet the demand. We owe our growth to football fans in Ninan Valappu.”

Subair said football helped the two poor women gain financial stability. “This is the economic impact of football,” he said.

Suhara said the next few weeks would be busy as work on World Cup jerseys had not started yet. “We have plenty of orders, so we have to work overtime from Wednesday,” she said.

Fans of the Spain football team receive the replica of the World Cup in 2010. (Photo courtesy: Ninan Valappu Football Fans Association).
Fans of the Spain football team receive the replica of the World Cup in 2010. (Photo courtesy: Ninan Valappu Football Fans Association).

Grand finale

The festivities in Ninan Valappu will culminate on July 15 when officials from the Ninan Valappu Football Fans Association will gift fans of the team that wins the World Cup a replica of the trophy. “We started this practice in 2012,” said Subair. “We cannot think of a better way to bid adieu to the month-long extravaganza.”

Children watch a football match in Ninan Valappu. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).
Children watch a football match in Ninan Valappu. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).
A street in Ninan Valappu in Kozhikode. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).
A street in Ninan Valappu in Kozhikode. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).
A wall in Ninan Valappu village is painted in the colours of prominent teams in the Word Cup. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).
A wall in Ninan Valappu village is painted in the colours of prominent teams in the Word Cup. (Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen).
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.