Football beyond the ground
Nevin Thomas’s love for the sport knows no bounds. Through his YouTube channel KalPanthu, he explores the world of football and the humans who inhabit it
KOCHI: Who’s not mad about football? In Kerala, a state where football is a staple, those who aren’t into the beautiful game might be few, compared to the die-hard fans. These football fans express their love for the sport by watching live, nerve-wracking matches or organising them. However, some take their passion to the next level.
For Nevin Thomas, his tryst with football happened spontaneously. His love for the sport turned him from being a journalist to a documentary filmmaker. He then launched a YouTube channel KalPanthu, where he talks about anything related to football in India, spanning from Nagaland to Kerala.
“My love affair with football started on the eve of my 23rd birthday,” said Nevin. I had heard a lot about Sevens Football, he said. Curious about this format of the sport, Nevin, who came to know that tournament was happening at Kozhichena in Malappuram, packed his bags and left for the quaint town.
“The experiences that I learned at the tournament inspired me to write my masters thesis on the socio-political impact of the Seven-a-side games,” he added. This was the start of his symbiotic relationship with football which later on saw him produce multiple films. After his graduation, Nevin worked as a journalist with leading national media. “However, the itch to do more with football was always there. I left my job in Mumbai and took a flight the very same day to Chennai,” he said.
“I had heard about this region in North Chennai called Vyasarpadi that was using football as a tool to keep children away from drugs and violence. Though I wasn’t fluent in Tamil, the steadfast belief that football is a common language throughout the world, I spent around two weeks at Vyasarpadi, which is well-known as Chennai’s Mini Brazil.”
He said, “The idea was to create a one-off documentary. However, I realised films offered me a bigger canvas to tell stories. I wanted to look at stories beyond the spectacle — what happened at the grassroots and how the game had a big impact on lives. This prompted me to make launch my channel — KalPanthu.” Nevin also spent months in Kohima in Nagaland and Chandigarh to learn about building football academies. Later, he started working as the digital content head at Minerva Punjab football club. Today, KalPanthu is home to many off-beat Indian football stories. “A new documentary is in the post-production stages,” added Nevin.
The channel has won a lot of critical acclaim with a few films being part of film festivals. Nevin’s work for Premier League India channel was also a big hit with one of his videos being retweeted by Argentine star Sergio Aguero.
He recently launched a newsletter titled Vuvuzela. “The letter is an extension of KalPanthu’s vision — to tell unheard stories and empower the powerless. In its 10 editions, Vuvuzela has worked with top journalists across the country to publish hard-hitting stories on Indian football,” said Nevin.
“I love the sport and try to catch a game at the local turf as much as I can. But the real high comes from learning the far-reaching impact of the sport. In Vyasarpadi, it saved the children from drugs. In Patan (Gujarat), it empowered the girl children. In Kerala’s Southern coasts, football is a means to escape poverty and life in the sea. I find satisfaction in telling the world how beautiful a sport this is.”