Some sporting moments are frozen in time and etched in history. Especially so when you are in Malappuram, arguably the sporting capital of Kerala. The sports mania is embodied in the Pavilion Hotel, where Zinedine Zidane rubs shoulders with Javed Miandad and Boris Becker.
Ajmal Kiliyamannil, who started the restaurant at Kunnummal in 2011, is game for a little wager every time he receives a guest.
If you could explain the larger-than-life photos on the walls of the eatery, you get free lunch amid a crossed Zidane headbutting Marco Materazzi and an enraged Miandad chasing Dennis Lillee. Becker will be watching the drama with a smile on his face and the Wimbledon trophy in hand.
The Pavilion is unique in many ways. This is perhaps the first vegetarian restaurant in Malappuram town. “I wanted the restaurant to be special. I explored a lot of names before selecting this name,” Ajmal said. He said his inspiration came from a sports-themed cafe in a luxury hotel in Chennai. The cafe is named Pavilion.
The sports aficionado cherry-picked the photographs to enliven his venture. His friends contributed some pictures and he downloaded the rest from various websites. Every photo tells a story. One of them features a local footballer receiving a prize from the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The Malappuram lad had sizzled the field in a tournament in Delhi in the 1950s. The photo, put up prominently above the cash counter, was gifted by a friend, Ajmal said.
The next photo is personal. The Moidu Rubber Estate Team basks in the glory of the Chakola Cup. The team, one of the initial football teams in the Malappuram district, was formed under the sponsorship of Ajmal’s father Moidu Haji in 1952. As the name suggested, the team practised in a rubber estate. The team was a launchpad for many professional players who later landed up in various state teams.
The club was disbanded in 1956 and parts of its former training ground houses the MES Medical College. Ajmal’s brother Yakoob was more into cricket. He joined his friends to form the Lords Cricket Club, the first cricket club in Malappuram. Yakoob later went on to become the municipal chairman of Malappuram.
From Pele to Sampras
The all-star restaurant’s collection is thriving. Sports history is on display for you to chew on. You can’t help notice Miandad’s rage as he raises his bat on the Australian bowler at Perth in 1981. The Australian tour was Miandad’s first outing as the Pakistani captain.
Miandad and team were chasing a lofty target of 543 runs. Two wickets down, Miandad and Mansoor Akhtar were struggling to keep up when Lillee got on the captain’s way. An altercation followed and Lillee was soon sent running for his life. The picture is a gem, considering that it comes from an era when television coverage was not pervasive.
The Pavilion is also graced by the Indian team that won the 1983 World Cup and an excited Sourav Ganguly waving his blue shirt from the Lords pavilion after India won the NatWest series in 2002.
Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna, who died in a crash in 1994, joins pole-vault legend Sergei Bubka, football wizards Pele, Diego Maradona, and tennis champion Pete Sampras in greeting the visitors to the Pavilion. Meanwhile, Ajmal is busy looking for new photographs to replace the old-faded ones.
And coming to food, go for the podi masala dosa, which will not burn a hole in your wallet.
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