KOCHI: In Kochi these days, football is talk of the town. So when Brazil visited their training ground for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, it was no surprise that schoolboys, college students, elders and families all scrambled to catch a glimpse of the future generation of the team which never ceases to mesmerise the masses in these parts.
Brazil and Fort Kochi share a common thread of history. Both were under the Portuguese for centuries.
Fort Kochi even assumes its name from Fort Emmanuel constructed by the Portuguese near the Arabian Sea waterfront in 1503.
They also share a rich history when it comes to football, their greatest passion.
Wearing shirts of their favourite European clubs, a few sporting the Indian Tricolour as well, they came in hundreds to cheer the Brazilian team, taking the players and officials by surprise.
“Never thought we would get such support so many miles away from Brazil. This is a pleasant surprise and will be a huge inspiration for the boys to do well in the tournament. We hope the support continues for Saturday’s match against Spain,” said Gregorio Fernandes, Brazil’s media officer.
“Things are a little different back home,” said Brazilian midfielder Marcos Antonio, when asked whether he was accustomed to such crowds during training.
“We don’t have such crowds during training. But we were already told that this is what we had to expect when you reach this place. It’s great to see them come out in numbers to watch us play,” Antonio said.
“It inspires us. We are only kids. And it’s wonderful to know that people want to be close to us. We are thankful and want to give joy to them on the field,” said Antonio, who idolises newly-named Brazil captain Casemiro. Antonio expects this excitement at Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium where they face Spain on Saturday.
“It’s a beautiful stadium. It will be even better on Saturday when it’s filled with supporters who cheer us on,” said Antonio, who with his teammates and the coaching staff took a tour of the stadium on Thursday.
“This is a very important competition for us. There is a lot of attention from the press and supporters in the stadium. We need to get used to it and prove that we can handle all the attention and the pressure that comes with it,” said the Brazil No. 8.