This year’s Federation Cup saw a host of clubs based in Kerala play at various stages of the tournament. There were also Keralite players who donned the jerseys for various clubs in the country. Footballkerala.com takes a look at the performances of these players.
While the action still continues at the 2009 Federation Cup, neither clubs nor players from Kerala will play any further role in the tournament much to the disappointment of the die-hard fans.
Our review has been limited to the performance of players from: five clubs from Kerala that played at the 2009 Federation Cup – Malabar United, Chandni FC, Travancore Titanium, State Bank of Travancore and Viva Kerala – and the Keralite players from the various outstation clubs – ONGC, Chirag United, Mumbai FC, Pune FC and Mahindra United.
Malabar United: The promising Malabar team ran into a stronger SBT team in the opening match of the qualifiers and lost 2-1.
The ever-reliable CK Jithesh was a mountain to cross in the heart of their defence and the Malabar team would have leaked more goals had it not been for the experienced defender and former Kerala Santosh Trophy player. Winger R Prasoon and striker PA Javed were a constant threat upfront and gave a torrid time to the opposition defenders. The two players combined well in Malabar’s only goal scored by Javed with Prasoon playing the creator. Midfielder Jacken Sebastian was fighting for every ball but was not at his best for most part of the game.
Chandni FC: The new kids on the block (in relative terms), Chandni FC, were robbed of a deserved win by a penalty in the dying seconds of the game against Titanium and eventually lost 2-1 in extra-time.
The three strikers in the Chandni team – Joseph Perera, KP Zubair and CK Salavuddin – completely outplayed the Titanium team for most part of the game. Newcomer Salavuddin dazzled the crowd with his brilliant dribbling skills but lacked the finishing skills required of a genuine striker. He will definitely mature over the season and probably needs to move to a more attacking midfieder kind of role. His partners in crime, Zubair and the wily Joseph Perera also did everything right except finding the net. Chandni goalkeeper and captain PP Sakeer Hussain put up a remarkable performance and he saved as many as five dangerous looking shots taken at goal. If it was not for him, Chandni would have lost their way quite early into the game.
Titanium: The team from Trivandrum was not at their best during the qualifiers winning their game against Chandni 2-1 before loosing their way completely against a formidable HAL 3-0.
Winger Cleetus was definitely the stand-out performer for Titanium and constantly raided the opposition defence. He linked up well with wing-back Sabir to thwart off any attacks from their opposite numbers. Experienced players Ebin Rose and T Usman were brilliant at times and showed why they still belong here but faded out when it mattered the most.
State Bank of Travancore: They were the best Kerala based club at the qualifiers. They were unfortunate to loose against HAL 2-0 in the finals. They beat Malabar 2-1 and whipped surprise package Young Challengers 7-1 en route to the finals.
Some of their players impressed the pundits so much that one of them remarked (off-the-record) that SBT is as good as some of the I-League teams. Midfielder Martin John was in a class of his own and he impressed everyone with his remarkable speed and incisive passing. He also made an uncanny reputation of scoring goals from difficult situations. Captain Abdul Noushad and the experienced striker Asif Saheer also played well during the matches and regularly featured in the score sheet. Defender BT Sharath was a tough nut to crack and his man-marking was superb especially against HAL in the finals of the Zonal qualifiers. Mohammed Shafi, twin brother of India camper and Mahindra’s star striker Mohammed Rafi, came off the bench and was impressive with both speed and dribbling skills.
Viva Kerala: The lone team from Kerala to play in the quarterfinal group stage/the main round of the 2009 Federation Cup was unbeaten at the end of their Cup commitments but failed to go through to the next stage. They held East Bengal and JCT to goalless draws and Salgaocar to a 1-1 draw.
Viva has arguably the best midfield line-up in Kerala consisting of T Karma, Patrick Sisupalan, MP Sakeer and C Sirajudeen. Whether it is the creative skills of captain Sakeer, tough tackling from Patrick, the pass-shoot approach of Siraj or speed and agile of Karma, they complement each other and have gelled well as a unit playing in a diamond formation. However, Siraj struggled throughout due to some minor niggles and Sakeer had to miss the last game against Salgaocar due to an automatic suspension. Upfront despite not scoring a goal, youngster VK Shibinlal was a shade better than his more experienced compatriot Rueben Senyo and looked dangerous at times. Rueben, on the other hand, seemed to have left his scoring boots at home and never looked dangerous except for the screamer he scored against Salgaocar. The defenders were solid as usual as the experienced Bello Rasaq, his new partner Amarwant Singh and the two wingbacks, Marshook and VV Surjit, stuck to their task and except for the goal conceded in their last match, the back four never seemed like leaking any goals. K Sharat, the new No. 1 goalkeeper in the team, was at his best and looked composed and was unfortunate to be injured in the second match against JCT.
ONGC: They won the West Zone qualifiers by beating two formidable Goan teams, Goa Velha SC 3-1 and Sesa Football Academy 4-0, before succumbing to South Zone winners HAL on penalties in the semi-finals of the inter-zonal qualifiers.
Ex-Viva players, right back KV Lalu and left back Shahbaz Saleel were instrumental in their zonal triumph. Both the players were consistently raiding the opposition half through the wings and the only Indian pair that seems to be better than them as a pair this season are Noaba Singh and Robert Lalthama of Churchil Brothers. Striker Kenistan was a constant threat upfront for ONGC and completing the trio of mallu players in their starting XI. The numbers would have gone up had PT Somy been fit to play.
Chirag United: They had a poor start to the tournament with a 2-1 loss to Mahindra and a goalless stalemate against Mohun Bagan. But they ended their campaign beating Mohammedan Sporting by a solitary goal.
Captain Denson Devadas has clearly established himself as a leader in the team. Denson has been improving with each match and the defensive midfielder maybe heading for an Indian call-up soon. Fellow statemate and Chirag defender R Dhanarajan played in the opening match loss against Mahindra but was sent off and he unfortunately did not play any further role in the tournament.
Mahindra United: The jeepmen were cruising through with wins against I-League surprise packages Chirag United 2-1 and second division team Mohammedan Sporting 1-0. But their winning streak was cut short by Mohun Bagan in a 2-0 loss.
Defender Sushanth Mathew was one of the best players for Mahindra during their Fed Cup campaign and started in all three matches. India star NP Pradeep scored a goal in the first match was only a shadow of the usual himself in the other matches. The experienced K Ajayan and young defender Justine Stephen stuck to their task and and were instrumental in keeping the ball possession. They, however, missed the services of star striker Mohammed Rafi who could only make a start from the bench in the last match in what seemed like a desperate attempt by the coach to change their fortunes against Mohun Bagan.
Mumbai FC: They won beat Sporting Goa 2-1 and HAL 4-2 but lost to I-League champions Churchill Brothers by a solitary goal thereby failing to go through to the semifinals.
Defender Anas Edatodika was an intimidating presence in defence for the Mumbai side. His man-marking against Odafa was remarkable and he managed to keep the hit-man quiet.
Pune FC: They had a strong Fed Cup campaign upsetting Dempo 2-1 and had two 1-1 draws against Air India and Lajong FC. They just about failed to qualify to the next round.
Othallo Tabia, the powerful defender from Kerala, was the spearhead of the Pune defence and gave the back four a much needed composure. His long range efforts at goal sent down quick shivers down the spine for the opposition goalkeepers.
Kerala XI (4-1-3-2) – Editor’s Pick: K Sharat (Viva Kerala) – Sushanth Mathew (Mahindra), Anas Edotodika (Mumbai FC), Othallo Tabia (Pune FC), Shahbaz Saleel (ONGC) – Denson Devadas (Chirag-Captain) – Martin John (SBT), MP Sakeer (Viva Kerala), Cleetus (Titanium) – Asif Saheer (SBT), PA Javed (Malabar United)
Notable Mentions: CK Jithesh (Malabar United), VV Surjit (Viva Kerala), KV Lalu (ONGC), C Sirajudeen (Viva Kerala) and NP Pradeep (Mahindra)
(Bello Rasaq and T Karma – both Viva Kerala – did not make the Kerala XI as the selection was restricted to “mallu” players)
Jason Morais writes for footballkerala.com