Goals from local lads VP Suhair and Abdul Rabeeh enthralled the fans at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri as East Bengal FC and Hyderabad FC played out a pulsating 3-3 draw in a Group B encounter of the Hero Super Cup on Thursday.

Naorem Mahesh Singh scored twice while local boy Suhair scored the other as the Red and Gold Brigade went on to take a 3-1 lead by halftime. But Hyderabad FC came out all guns blazing in the second half to overturn the two-goal deficit. Javier Siverio scored his second of the night from close range before local Malappuram boy Rabeeh sent his fellow fans into ruptures with his first home goal for the club, a moment the youngster will never forget.

The 22-year-old burst into joy as he scored the all-important equaliser in front of his family members and friends who were in attendance for the game.

“This was my second match for Hyderabad FC (in the Hero Super Cup), and I’m happy that I could score my first goal in this town where I have grown up,” Rabeeh told the-aiff.com.

“All my family and friends were there in the stands, and it really was a special moment to score in front of them. This was the first time they saw me score,” he added.

Like Rabeeh, Suhair is also quite a known face in the town as he lives just 20 minutes away from the Payyanad Stadium. The 30-year-old also got his name on the scoresheet as he stepped up to fire past Gurmeet Singh to put his team ahead once again after Siverio made it 1-1 early in the first half.

Speaking to the media after the game, the East Bengal FC forward recalled playing with Rabeeh in local football tournaments during their early career.

“Yes, we have known each other for some time, and we’ve also played in a few local tournaments here in Malappuram,” Suhair said.

Despite getting his name on the scoresheet, he was disappointed to not win the game for his team. But Suhair was happy to see his local counterpart get his first goal in front of the home crowd.

“Of course, it was mixed emotions for me. Of course, I wanted us (East Bengal FC) to win the match, but I was also happy to see another local boy score. I am sure every fan in the stands is happy,” he remarked.

Rabeeh’s family members and supporters watched the young forward score a late equaliser to earn an important point for his side. After the final whistle, the Hyderabad FC forward expressed his gratitude to the fans that flocked to the stadium to support him.

“People in Malappuram are crazy about football. That is not to say that other parts of Kerala don’t follow the game, but that football enjoys an altogether different level of popularity here,” said Rabeeh.

Suhair was also full of praise for the crowd in Manjeri who took time out of their busy Ramzan schedule to watch their local players play.

“The people here are passionate, and they love football. Even during the Ramzan month, they are coming to watch football after finishing their fasting and worship,” Suhair opined.