By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar
Panaji: Football isn’t just about kicking the ball around, draining draught with your mates or kissing your favourite club jersey when your team scores a goal.
Three young couples from Goa have just upped the pitch and sharpened the curve of passion for the beautiful game.
From exchanging vows on football pitches to slipping in football matches in honeymoon itineraries, this refreshingly trendy marital passion for football — English and Spanish teams in particular, seems not a bit out of place in Goa.
Especially when four of the state’s club teams rank within top 10 in the I-league, India’s premier football league. West Bengal, you got that!
Take Anish Quenim for example.
A rugby player, but a football enthusiast, he chose Anfield, the home ground of English Premier League club Liverpool to marry his girlfriend Natasha Mistry.
The hallowed grassy square where Liverpool captain Steven Gerard’s searing shots invariably send raptures of excitement through the spines of thousands of Kopites (that’s what Liverpool fans call themselves) is where Anish pledged his scorching love for his wife.
“Since I was a little boy, I used to say, if I marry, it will be a princess and it will be in a kingdom and that ‘kingdom’ for me was always Anfield. Today, I’m glad I achieved both dreams. I always wanted to step on the Liverpool pitch someday, if not as a player, if not as an owner, if not as staff then at least as one of Liverpool FC’s most passionate supporter,” Anish told Firstpost.
The Goan lad, who runs a chain of hospitality businesses, including a lounge bar and diner, a beach club in partnership with renowned entertainer DJ Aqeel, features on the British football club’s official website as one of the star fans.
“Anish Quenim and Natasha Mistry made the 6,800-mile trip from Goa to tie the knot at a ceremony inside the club’s L4 home. After making their vows, it was off for a tour of the world-famous stadium before a wedding breakfast in one of the boxes overlooking the hallowed turf,” the website says.
Anish calls it a fairy-tale story. One that followed the story of how the couple really met: “We had seen each other in college, however never got a chance to interact. One fine day, many years later we bumped into each other at a traffic light in south Bombay, exchanged smiles, found each other online and the rest is history,” Anish said.
If Anish’s story of passion for Liverpool amazes you, wait till you hear the lengths 29-year-old Reema Kamat went to indulge her husband-to-be Krushnan, a Manchester United fan… er sorry, a “fanatic”, she insists.
“In our room we have a floor to ceiling-length cabinet full of Manchester United merchandise. A miniature of the stadium, players… the whole gamut,” says Reema, a marketing and communications manager with the Goa Marriott.
And no, she’s not complaining.
Constantly hanging out with her husband and common friends who are Red Devils fans, Reema has also been ‘dyed’ red.
Her wedding on February 15, 2009, had a beautifully crafted logo, which was a medley of Hindu symbolism and Manchester United logos and signs.
“It looked like a perfectly normal wedding backdrop with an Indian motif,” she says.
But the devil in this case lay in the details. Fine details which were cleverly crafted into the backdrop by Reema and the vendor who designed the backdrop.
The words ‘Manchester United’ were replaced with the names of the bride and groom; Krushnan and Reema. The quirky Devil with a fork in the middle was switched with a traditional image of Lord Ganesh. And the two footballs on the sides were replaced by two Swastikas.
An Arsenal fan who made it to the wedding almost tottered with shock, when he realized that he was caught shaking hands with the bride and groom against the United backdrop.
And as irrepressible as Man United fans come, the wedding backdrop was only the kick-off to Krushnan-Reema’s ‘match’.
Their finale was a honeymoon to Old Trafford in England, home to their favourite team, which appears all set to win the Barclays Premier League this year: “Our honeymoon was incorporated with two football matches. We went to the club’s museum too,” Reema says.
And those who can’t make it to the European shores learn to make do in Goa itself with all gusto.
Emmanuel Soares of Chinchinim is one of those Goans who wear football jerseys to work, play, sleep and perhaps even in his dreams. A sailor, who works onboard an ocean cruise liner, the 29-year-old married his childhood sweetheart a couple of months back wearing spiked football studs instead of formal shoes and a Chelsea scarf around his neck.
The theme for the wedding was all ‘Blue’ after the club’s colours and the cake shaped after the digit ‘8’ — the number his favourite player, the gritty Frank Lampard, wears on his jersey.
“He is the man. The football player who means everything to me. I wanted to incorporate the Lampard-Chelsea spirit into my wedding too,” Soares says, amplifying a facet of Goanness which has been overshadowed of late by sex crimes, drugs and feni — you can neither take football out of the Goan, nor the Goan out of football.