Mixed feelings welcome us in 2010, when it comes to Kerala football. While Viva Kerala still thrives in the I-League and N.P.Pradeep makes his mark nationally, it is quite sad to see our age-group teams faltering at various national tournaments.
Lack of tournaments is always cited as problem that cripples Kerala football. Sevens format still attracts a sizeable chunk of spectators and interest, in various parts of the state, but the format is not officially recognized and the stage is too local to have a widespread impact.
Bucking the trend of tournaments vanishing in to oblivion, signs are now positive. There seems to be some sort of ambition from this government when it comes to sports – be it the inclusion of Physical Education as part of the school curriculum or the claim that 10,000 playgrounds will be identified by the end of 2010.
Recently, the State government took an initiative to revive the G.V. Raja football tournament after a gap of 25 years. G.V. Raja football tournament was one among the many football tourneys that dotted our state’s football calendar in the past. Supporters had a melange of tournaments to relish on: Sait Nagjee, Chackolas and various others.
A dip in our interest in football meant that all these tournaments vanished.
Thankfully, some of them at least are planning to be revived. We were already treated with Navy Week State-level Invitation Football tournament in November 2009, where the top teams from Kerala battled out. The Manorama Gold Cup All-India Football Tournament is currently happening in full blow at Seethi Haji Football Ground, Edavanna, Malappuram. The flood-lit grounds have already witnessed some good football and the competition has reached its semi-final stage.
Later this month, Thiruvananthapuram will host the G.V. Raja Football Tournament. While E.K Nayanar memorial international football tourney will be returning to Kannur this February, rumors are abound that the Kozhikode Football Association is also gearing up for an international tournament to be played in the recently rechristened EMS stadium.
While all these are the major professional tournaments, there has been a considerable spurt in the amateur football tournaments and coaching camps too. Reports suggest that in 2009, a staggering number of 73 football coaching camps were organized, in which close to three thousand children turned up.
The Kozhikode based SEPT, which has 22 coaching centers all across Kerala, witnessed a massive turnout for selection trials. Reports suggest that close to 5000 children turned up for the selection trials in their 22 centers. It would be inappropriate not to mention that a SEPT team selected from the 540 trainees appeared in some international tournaments in Scandinavia and managed to defeat some foreign teams during their tour.
It is not alone academies that are thriving, age-group tournaments are making a comeback. Kozhikode district itself had four inter-school tourneys, of which the Olympian Rahman Memorial Trust football tournament and the Universal Soccer School Football Carnival were noteworthy. Apart from this, the Tata Tea Arsenal Soccer Star Inter School Football tournament also happened in Kozhikode.
The FIFA supported Vision Kerala Inter-school League was also conducted in Kerala in 2009. This is a lot of football that is being played. News is that for the upcoming 2nd division I-League, there will be four to five teams battling it out from Kerala.
While the departmental teams are reviving, there are new ventures like Josco FC, Malabar United and Chandini FC trying to push themselves into the bigger league. It is important to have functional and ambitious clubs to make sure that football thrives professionally in Kerala and now as teams are ready, what we need are tournaments.
Yes, the tournaments are finally coming back, and let’s hope a jolly Mexican wave of tournaments will thrust our state back in to a long forgotten football frenzy. A sense of optimism is finally here!