Of barefoot priest-footballers and girls training under nonagenarians: Indian state’s passion for football goes global in FIFA+ documentary

Delhi based director Misha Kumar brings six gripping stories from Kerala in FIFA’s first Indian sports documentary

May 09, 2022

Indians are associated largely with cricket, a game Indians all over the world are known to be passionate about. But football, the world's most popular sport, also has a large following in India, particularly in the states of Kerala, Bengal and Goa. 

Football is said to be in the blood of the denizens of the southern Indian state of Kerala, which recently won the inter-state football tournament known as the Santosh Trophy. Now fans of the game from Australia to America are able to learn about and experience their passion, excitement and tension on the field in a new FIFA documentary. 

Here there are priests that play barefoot, a women’s team that has been making waves in overseas competitions, and little girls training under nonagenarians.

Directed by Delhi-based filmmaker Misha Kumar, ‘Maitanam’ — described as a 40-minute love letter to the game — is the first Indian sports documentary for the newly launched digital streaming platform FIFA+ in India.

Shining a light on the 'beautiful game' as played in India, Maitanam —Malayalam for ‘ground’ or, by extension, stadium — tells six inspirational and vivid stories from Kerala where football is a way of life. A loving ode to Kerala’s passion, it captures the Malayali passion for the sport across Kerala with breathtaking visuals and a nonlinear free-flowing narrative.

The electric juxtaposition of on and off-field scenes — coconut cutting, fishing boats, one passing kid making a sign — makes it an absolutely gripping tale.

Produced by RISE Worldwide, Maitanam joins an elite list of global sports storytelling content as part of the select FIFA+ Originals made available globally. The docu-film is now streaming worldwide on FIFA+ (Watch it here).

From the state capital Thiruvananthapuram in the extreme south to the commercial capital Kochi to the cultural capital Thrissur, the documentary covers diverse terrains.

And then there is a fascinating football commentator whose passion for the game is manifested in every belly-laugh and anecdote to the game of football in the state of Kerala.

The film is already making waves on social media. Kerala Sports Minister V Abdurahiman calls it “FIFA’S salute to the football madness in Kerala” on his official Facebook page. “FIFA has officially released a documentary about Kerala football in the name of Maitanam. Now the whole world will know Kerala football closely,” he posted.

“What an outstanding film on Kerala’s love affair with football this is,” tweeted Anant Tyagi, anchor, commentator and emcee at Star Sports. 

“Loved it and lived it! Big up to the @themishanthrope and@R1SEWorldwide for putting this together so beautifully with @FIFAcom. Go give it a watch,” he wrote.

“Growing up in Kerala, it was impossible to escape the deep-rooted and all-encompassing passion around the land for football, easily the most popular sport back then,” tweeted Ajesh Ramachandran, an Executive Producer at the ICC. “Delighted that my friend @themishanthrope has made a film on this!”

“FIFA+ Originals are aimed at millions of sports fans across the globe,” said Andrew Whitelaw - Commissioning Editor & APAC Content Lead, FIFA+. 

“These films throw up unique perspectives on how football is played across geographies and cultures and the place the game commands in the hearts of fans."

“Maitanam, shot with state-of-the-art equipment by our world-class creative team marks India's first step in multilingual indigenous football storytelling,” said James Rego, Head of Broadcast & Production, RISE Worldwide.

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