Friday 27 October 2017, 09:08

Football and art go hand in hand in Kochi

  • Two volunteers transformed a room at the Kochi stadium into artwork

  • Harikrishnan Kartha and Azeem Kattali came up with the idea

  • Project combined art and football on the room's blank walls 

Two volunteers who wanted to create something out of the ordinary and a coordinator who gave them the opportunity to do so: that was the starting point for a project that brings art and football together and converted the blank walls of a room at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi into a bright and welcoming recreation area for volunteers at the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.

“When I interviewed Azeem and Harikrishnan, they said they wanted to be part of the World Cup and create something different, because they’re designers and artists,” said Aisha Naiza, Kochi’s Volunteer Coordinator, in conversation with in the room in question. “So I thought about the best way to harness their enthusiasm and this is the result.

“They form part of a group called Eunoians Creative Studio and they worked non-stop with 12 other people for three days and nights, so they could finish on time,” added the 22-year-old Naiza, a mechanical engineer.

“The important thing was to come up with a concept that connects everyday life in Kochi with football, and Seerow Unni, the group’s creative director, did a great job in that respect,” she continued. “That’s why you can see, for example, balls instead of fish in a net. Fishing is a very important activity in the province of Kerala.”

Harikrishnan Kartha, one half of the duo that came up with the idea, offered more details. “We used what we call ‘magical realism’ in the room,” said the 35-year-old scriptwriter, who idolises Lionel Messi, as the screensaver on his mobile phone showed.

“That’s why we used things from the surroundings, like a fire extinguisher that was on the wall and the design in itself. The idea was to work with what we had and not change the functionality of some of the elements that were already in place.”

Seated by his side was project partner Azeem Kattali. Aged 34 and an animation specialist, he explained the thinking behind the focal point of their design – a solar system with a football at its centre: “We’re all football fanatics here and it seemed to us to be the best way to show that football connects everything.”

Around 250 volunteers made use of the recreation room during the eight matches Kochi hosted at India 2017, looking after it as if it was their own. But what will happen to it, now that the stadium has hosted its last match at the tournament?

“We were supposed to hand the stadium back to the authorities in the same condition we found it, but we’re doing what we can to make sure the room stays this way,” explained Naiza. “Whether we can manage that or not, and regardless of whatever photos or videos there are, this room is like an artwork and it’ll stay in all our memories forever.”