KOZHIKODE: Coming with a team made up of fishermen, small traders and government employees, Lakshadweep will make their first ever appearance in the Santosh Trophy, in the 71st edition of the national football championship.
Chances are that they might be thrashed by 2012 runners-up Tamil Nadu, but making their presence felt in the prestigious meet is in itself a huge feat for the island that did not have their own team until a fortnight ago.
“Our affiliation was only confirmed by All India Football Federation during its general body meeting on December 21. Since then, it has been a race against time to assemble the team and get them across the sea,” said Nizamuddin KI, general secy of Lakshadweep Football Association.
The team was picked from eight clubs playing in the Kavaratti League (K-League) that runs for a month along with a few from department sides like Lakshadweep Police and Civil Services. The team barely had any time for practice and reached the mainland earlier this week. “Some are fishermen. Others run shops or are employed in shops. Football is the most popular pastime in the islands and everyone comes together in the evenings to play the game,” added Nizamuddin.
“Shiraz Khalid trained the team in Lakshadweep, but we needed someone with proper coaching badges,” said Nizamuddin. Step in Deepak CM of Universal Soccer School, Kozhikode. “All the players have tremendous passion, but lack of experience will show,” Deepak opined.
Ismail B, an employee of Ports Department, is the captain. “This is a great opportunity for us to play at the highest level. We might not be the best of teams but we will try our best to represent our home,” said Ismail.
Nizamuddin feels football is on the rise in the islands. “Our sub-junior team returned from the Nationals in Neyveli with two wins and a loss against Tamil Nadu. This is proof that there is a good generation of footballers coming up,” he said.
The islands of Kavaratti, Minicoy and Andrott boasts of a football ground each of standard dimensions. Up to 3,000 people attend some K-League games. And recently, more and more players from the islands are taking up the game at school and college level. “For some players, this might be their first taste of organised football,” said coach Deepak. “Irrespective of the results here, they will be richer for the experience when they return to the islands,” he added.