KOCHI: They say football is religion. And just like how we turn to religious scriptures seeking names for our newborns, there is a group of football fans who search the pages of football history to name their children. From yesteryear legends like Maradona and Pele to modern-day greats like Ronaldo and Messi, there seems to be no shortage for kids named after footballers in Kerala.
“Is there a better way to show our love for the game? Or maybe I wanted to give him a headstart if he stepped into football,” says Paapu, father of Seeko named after the legendary Zico who turned out for Brazil during the 1970s and 80s.
Now 14 years old, Seeko is trying to live up to his name playing for Muthoot Football Academy in Kochi under Irish World Cupper Terry Phelan. Lalu P S named not one, but two of his sons after footballers. His youngest son Milatto, 3, is named after Argentine forward Diego Milito, while Bebatto, a second standard student of SH School, Thevara, has been named after Brazilian World Cup winner Bebeto.
The names of Latin American players are the most popular, but there are also who were named after European greats. A hot pick seems to be France legend Zinedine Zidane, who recently quit as Real Madrid coach.
Mohammed Sidhan, a leading tennis player from Kerala, was born in 1998 — the year Zidane led his country to World Cup glory, while another Zidhan hails from Areekode in Malappuram but is ironically a supporter of Brazil who lost to France in the 98 final.
Dubai-based Tomy Xavier, meanwhile, named his son Thiago after Lionel Messi’s son! We ask him why not Leo or Lionel? “There is only one Lionel Messi and there won’t be another like him,” says Tomy, who is a die-hard Argentina and Barcelona fan.
Twenty-four-year-old Clins Jose was named by his dad after Jurgen Klinsmann, who lifted the 1990 World Cup with West Germany, while the namesake of 13-year-old Saviola of Government Vocational Higher Secondary School, Maradu, was a Real Madrid and Barcelona forward (Javier Saviola).It was only recently that Inzaman-ul-Haq and Fida Sanam from Manjeri named their son Mehd Ozil after German playmaker Mesut Ozil.
Ozil’s club Arsenal made a video about the tribute earning the parents praise from Ozil himself.
With another edition of the World Cup kicking off in Russia on Thursday, we can surely expect additions to this ever-growing list of namesakes to famous footballers.