When AIFF invited auctions for two new teams in I-League, football fans in Kerala were happy and hoping that one or even two of the new teams will be based in “Gods own country”. Travancore, Kochi and Malabar all are well known for their interest for Football and have produced football icons in the past. Those international players have passed their experience and valuable expertise for budding talents. While cricket takes precedence and overshadows all other sports in this country, in Kerala – Football and Volleyball have a unique place.
Football roots in Malabar, Kochi and Travancore are very strong and every other kid grows up with playing football on the streets. They have their own local and national heroes and they idolize them and go in pursuit of the dream to wear the national jersey. National football icons are born in every nook and corner and the kind of attention star striker I.M. Vijayan gets cannot be matched by any other person in this state. Keralites always adored iconic footballers and the baton has been passed through various hands from Thiruvalla Pappan, Olympian T.A. Rahman, T.K. Chathunni, V.P. Sathyan, and the list goes on and on. In every decade Kerala has produced atleast one national footballing icon, a true reflection of the Kerala’s footballing stature.
Kerala enjoyed a golden period from 1988 to 1995 by making it to Santhosh Trophy finals 7 times consecutively. Another golden run is around the corner for the 5 times champions and the current batch is looking likely to better their predecessor’s achievements. Kannan, Rahul, Shibin Lal, Surjit, Johnson, Jean Christian etc aren’t I-League or national level players yet but every Keralite football fan is familiar with these names, such is the popularity of local Santosh Trophy stars. The talent and potential is unparalleled and unfortunately, untapped.
The lack of a representative in I-League has hurt the progress of young footballers. Many players are forced to take a different path to earn a living to meet their demands in day-to-day life. At a young age, they are not sure if they can reach the summit of Indian Football to earn a living for themselves. Youngsters will have something to aim for during their early stages in career and if they are good enough they will make the grade, if there is an I-League club in the state. The drop outs from talented group can be limited and their ambitions can be matched with an I-League club. Together they can fight for their targets and the support is assured from the stands.
For a club to be successful their supply line should be intact. If they can produce footballers of highest quality, the team is destined for success. Most of the successful clubs across the world have either a good academy or good amount of money to buy talented players. Having a good academy depends a lot on availability of talented players. If the catchment pool has a strong base, clubs will be able to develop players easier and can produce better players. Kerala is a fertile land of young footballers and if groomed properly they can reach the summit. This will be an added attraction for any team looking towards Kerala and they will be in a win-win situation in the long run as well. Producing good youngsters will benefit the club in many ways. The big guns will be waiting to raid the academies in search of talents and in return they may get money for transfers. Either profit or success is guaranteed with Kerala Football!
The Passion for football is boundless in Kerala, infact half of them will turn Brazilians while the other half roots for Argentina during the international tournaments. Pele and Maradona are adored and are viewed in very high regards. The friendly banters and the competition among fans are also a regular activity in this football loving group. During the time of World Cup, there will be a number of banners and flags supporting their teams and you might think whether the World Cup is taking place in this part of the country. The potential of market for any investor is huge; recently a jeweler was inaugurated in Kannur by none other than Maradona and more than 50,000 gathered there for the function. One cannot guarantee such a big crowd if a certain Dhoni visits here. The potential of the market is huge and if explored properly, the investor can reap rewards.
There was a time when Kerala hosted a number of all India level football tournaments (Kerala Trophy, G V Raja Trophy, Mammen Mappilay Cup, Nehru Cup, Chacholas Gold Cup, Sait Nagjee Trophy and S N Trophy) and football stars were household names. Every now and then, Keralites were reminded of their football supremacy when a new star arrived in Indian Football circles. Entrepreneurs will be attracted to invest their money in Kerala by knowing that their players can achieve stardom with some good displays and it will attract crowd to the stadium. Be it Cochin, Travancore or Malabar, people love football and they will take the players and teams to their hearts and soul.
The tiny state boasts 3.5 crore population, their passion and love for football has no boundaries. Ironically one of the best managed football body is the illegal sevens association which conducts more than 60 tournaments in a year. Their turnover is in crores and that justifies that ‘if you sow well you can reap well’.
KFA has learned a thing or two from the success of sevens league and woke from their slumber. Santosh Trophy and India Palestine friendly has reignited the passion among the football lovers in Kerala. India – Palestine friendly in Kochi attracted more than 30,000 fans while Santosh Trophy final was witnessed by more than 45,000. These numbers exclude the lakhs of people who followed it on TV, which is a good sign of public’s interests. The group matches and knock out games in Kollam also attracted thousands of fans. Football lovers in Kollam didn’t get to watch their own team, but they showed their passion by attending matches of other states including Tamil Nadu, hoping to catch some glimpses of beautiful football. Calicut didn’t get the chance to host the action, but the people travelled to Kochi in large groups to watch their favourite stars.
The sleep is over and people are hitting the streets once again with footballs every evening. They are ready to take time out of their busy lives to catch the footballing action.
The rise of new Indian winger Vineeth C.K. is another plus point as he is becoming a house hold name with each passing moment. India – Palestine friendly was covered by media for almost 10 days. This kind of media and public support is very rare and if we can hit the spot, a jackpot is awaiting. The top daily newspapers like Malayala Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Kerala Kaumudi, Deepika, Deshabhimani etc. are all supportive of the sporting action and spreads the game in all possible means.
If an investor are ready to do the homework and is ready to invest in football, there is no place better than Kerala. If a club can play good football besides being properly run, Kerala fans will provide all their support to produce the best talents. Keralites love football and will be willing to join hands in the revival of football in the state. Development of infrastructure and youth development is much easier in Kerala with the support of football lovers and should be a huge bonus for the investors. With Kolkata and Goa out of the equation, there is no place better than Kerala to put money on football.