Kerala, “God’s Own Country” has always produced quality players for the Indian national team. Who can forget the I.M. Vijayan’s darting runs? Who can forget the strong tackles of the late V. P. Sathyan? In recent times the supply of the player from this state which produced legends in Indian football has reduced. There are various reasons for this decline but all hope is not lost yet.
Where Is The Professional League?
The Kerala Football Association has failed to provide a platform for the talented youngsters in the state by failing to organize a professional football league. A mere two month long tournament is not enough for the growth of a professional player. The 7’s tournament which has been annually held for past few years have pulled in crowds but it failed to turn into a proper professional league. Former India international Raman Vijayan believes that failure to have a professional league in the state have a major role to play in the decline.
In recent times positive developments have taken place for a state wide professional league. The state association has got clearance from AIFF in forming a franchisee based league in the state. The tournament is still in planning stage but has raised the hopes of the fans in the state. Lack of a proper league structure also means that Kerala clubs tend to struggle in I-League division-2.
The Young Guns Need Grooming
To groom a young player proper infrastructure is needed but unlike the other football states in the country like Goa and Bengal, the Kerala has done very little to improve infrastructure. The state has a number of undiscovered talents but they need correct facilities to turn into a better and more polished players.
In recent year authorities have identify the importance of starting an academy. The Aluva Veterans Football Association has started an academy naming it after Aluva with the affiliation of the soccer aficionados of the region. It is a seed which will help start to reap benefits eventually.
The state lost a golden opportunity of starting academy with the help of the Royal Netherlands FA. The Dutch were eager to set up an academy in the state and were willing to send their own coaches to groom players but delay in the process saw them turn back. Another big name which has come forward to set up academy was Real Madrid. The Vikings also had initial talks with the authorities in the Kerala. The proposal is still pending and this project if turned reality, will be a huge boost for football in the state.
Lack Of Professional Clubs
The state has a glorious history in the Santosh trophy but when it comes to club level the state doesn’t have a professional football club playing in the top flight. FC Kochin formed 1996 was the first professional club from the state to participate in the Indian national football league – it was also the first professional football club in India. Kochin showed some promise initially, finishing 4th in the league and winning Durand Cup in 1997. They were also drawing bumper crowds and showing healthy appetite to professionalize Indian football but relegation in early 2000s jolted the club beyong recovery. India’s first professional club soon got disbanded, failing to fulfill their potential.
Clubs in the Kerala have failed to rope in sponsors and Viva Kerala was the latest casualty after closing down due to lack of investment. Cooperates are yet to show major interest in club football in Kerala and that is a major reason why clubs have failed to make it big at national level. Local players prefer to play for the club in 7’s because of a better salary and clubs are also failing to attract better players from other I-League clubs. New clubs such Quartz SC, Malabar United and Josco FC will look to earn a promotion in the I-League but they will need better investment to achieve it.
The Rising Stars – Players To Watch Out
C.K. Vineeth is a talent which every coach would love to have at his disposal. The 5 ft. 10 inch attacking Winger came into limelight during in the 2011-12 season when his heroics with the Chirag United Kerala earned him a big fan following. After the relegation of the Chirag United Kerala aka Viva Kerala the winger signed for Kolkata based Prayag United. His impressive performance for the purple brigade must have surely attracted the national team coach and he can expect call up soon.
Balan after joining I-League side Churchill brothers 2 years back, failed to get into the first team initially. The diminutive striker after some impressive performance in the Goan league for the Red Machines has earned his rightful place in the first playing eleven. He has been regular for the club and has been one of their most consistent performers this season. He became first Indian to score the hat-trick in 2012/13 season against the Sporting Clube de Goa.
The 21 year old youngster started his career at Chirag Kerala. During his spell at Chirag Kerala he was picked up for the U-23 Indian team. Possessing impressive work-rate. the youngster is currently playing for the AIFF developmental side Pailan Arrows and is certainly a player to watch out in coming years.
Swot Analysis Of The Football In The Kerala
- Huge popularity of football in the state – even local tournament attracts fans in the thousands.
- There is no dearth of talent in the state, if provided with a good infrastructure state can produce quality footballers. Recently youngsters like Usman Ashik, Shahin Lal Meloly and a few others have shown lots of promise.
- Lack of investment in the infrastructure has hammered the growth of the local players.
- Clubs in the state have failed to attract sponsors. Clubs such as Viva Kerala and FC Kochin had shown a lot of hope for the fans but lack of investment from the cooperate brought the downfall of these clubs in the long run.
- There is ray hope for the local players as well as fans since new clubs are coming up in the state.
- AIFF mulling over the expansion of the I-League in increasing the number of teams from 14 to 16 and this will increase the chances for Keralite to get promoted in the I-League.
- Every time a player who shows some prominence is roped by the big clubs from Goa and Bengal and that give little option for the local clubs to sustain squad strength.
- The 7’s tournament and other local tournament have been the major attraction for the fans but leaves very little room for new clubs to develop fan-base.
Despite crwod enthusiasm and local talent the potential of Kerala is getting wasted. Declaration of the new franchise league and the new clubs coming up with big ambition are certainly positive signs for the local players and fans. If all the plans on the paper come into reality then players like I.M. Vijayan wll once again start coming out of Kerala.