KOCHI: For sure, winds of footballing change are sweeping across India. And Kerala on Tuesday took another step in the right direction with its first ever professional player signing involving a transfer fee.
Thrissur-based FC Kerala claimed the honour when their promising winger Jithin M S signed a three-year contract with ISL franchise Kerala Blasters FC for a transfer fee of Rs 5 lakh.
At a time when many football academies are struggling due to lack of finances and poaching of players by bigger academies and clubs, FC Kerala - an I-League Second Division Club — is putting forward a sustenance model followed successfully in the stronger football nations.
“Rs 5 lakh might be a small amount in comparison, but it is something to start with,” V A Narayana Menon, FC Kerala technical director, told Express.“We nurture players under contract and, if another club wants them, the club has to pay us for their release. When Blasters approached us, we told them that. The Blasters’ management respected the situation.”
‘Jithin an exciting, promising player’
FC Kerala technical director Narayana Menon, a former under-19 national team coach, said transfer fees are inevitable for Indian football to sustain itself. “Clubs from Africa and South America earn millions when their players move to Europe or Asia. And the club reinvests the money in producing more talents. But the concept is still new in India,” he said.
Blasters CEO Varun Tripuraneni said Jithin is an exciting player. “I have seen him play a couple of times when he played against our Reserves in the Second Division. He is very promising,” Tripuraneni said.
Jithin, whose father is a coconut climber from Ollur in Thrissur, said he wants to break into the Blasters first team soon.
“They approached me after the Santosh Trophy, but I am happy to finally complete the move. My dream is to play for India and I am determined to do that,” he said.Appearing for Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur, Jithin emerged the top-scorer while helping his college to the TNIE GOAL 2018 title. He then broke into the national scene leading Kerala to their first Santosh Trophy victory in 14 years at Kolkata. Kerala Football Association general secretary P Anilkumar welcomed the move as a trendsetter.
“KFA had asked all clubs and academies to follow the player compensation policy from last season onwards as a result of which more and more players are now playing under the contract system. I hope this is the start of a good trend which will do a world of good for small feeder academies,” he said. Bengaluru FC recently became the first Indian club to receive a fee from a foreign club when they sold Edu Garcia to Chinese side Zhejiang Lucheng .
Kochi to host Girona, Melbourne City in July
Kochi will play host to Spanish premier division side Girona this July as part of a pre-season football tournament named LaLiga World which will also see the participation of local ISL side Kerala Blasters and Australian A-League club Melbourne City.
The tournament was launched by Spain and Real Madrid great Fernando Morientes in Kochi.