The incredible cutout of Argentina talisman Lionel Messi, which was raised in a river in Kerala’s Kozhikode district weeks before the start of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, now belongs to a Brazilian supporter.
On Tuesday, the residents of Pullavoor carefully uprooted the now-famous facility, strapped it to the back of a truck and took it to Ameen’s property.
The 30-foot Messi cut isn’t the only one Ameen has acquired. The cuts of Neymar (35 feet) and Cristiano Ronaldo (50 feet), which were in the river next to Messi, have been moved to the sports center in Ameen.
“I’m going to have them inside an auditorium where we have a swimming pool. It’s quite tall, hopefully it will stay standing like it was in the river,” Ameen told Onmanorama.
Messi’s was the first cut to go up the river, at the behest of Argentina’s Fans Pullavoor. Ameen’s Brazilian fan group introduced Neymar soon after. Cristiano was the last to join the trio.
The incisions, placed on scaffolding, soon gained worldwide attention. FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, also praised the efforts of fans from the south of a country that has never participated in the men’s World Cup.
Criticism was not far behind and the threat of a lawsuit emerged after a defender alleged several violations, including river pollution. But soccer fans, including in the state Cabinet, rallied behind and the cuts remained, even after Neymar’s Brazil and Cristiano’s Portugal bowed out in the quarter-finals, until Messi guided Argentina to the title on December 18.
Initially, groups of fans planned to plant the cuttings on neighboring land where a local football tournament, the Pullavoor Premier League, is hosted. But that plan was shelved to avoid further legal trouble.
“We planned a big celebration the day after the final, but there was a death in town and we postponed it as a mark of respect. Today, we celebrated by cutting a cake and before removing the trimmings from the water.” said Nousheer Nellikkode, a member of Argentina Fans Pullavoor.