Back with Elan
‘Najumuddin!’ called out a thrilled Xavier Pius as he curled a ball into the path of his 1973 Santosh Trophy-winning teammate.
Warming up for an exhibition match against a Sacred Heart Football Academy XI, it was clear that the vagaries of time had failed to dent the spirit of the gifted footballers, who won for Kerala its first-ever national football title at the Maharaja’s College Stadium.
At the picturesque SH College Ground on Wednesday, it was a sight to behold for the connoisseurs of Kerala football as 11 members of the legendary team showed in no uncertain terms that class is permanent, however fickle form and physique might be.
Despite age catching up with their agility, with most of them well past 60, there was no doubting their ability. So assured were they on the ball that onlookers forgot themselves for a few moments.
Twisting, turning and striking with elan, admittedly with half the quickness of their heyday, it was obvious why this bunch went on to become the best in the country.
“Sir, I just lost myself watching them play,” said a Sree Kerala Varma College player, when a volunteer ventured forth to ask the gathering to clap as goalkeeper G Ravindran, defenders K P Ratnakaran, K V Usman Koya, M O Jose and C C Jacob, midfielders T A Jaffar and Abdul Hameed, and forwards A Najumuddin, Xavier Pius, K P Williams and Blassey George displayed their skills.
Though the young kids did take the ball away a few times, the fitter ones like Pius and Jaffar were as doughty as ever, not willing to give an inch even to young opponents.
Watching from the sidelines were coach Simon Sunderraj and captain T K S Mani, whose health did not permit him to play.
“They are the same spirited lot,” stressed Sunderraj, even as Mani acknowledged with a smile.
And as the referee brought the little revisit into the shining past, joy and disappointment interspersed on the faces of the stalwarts.
“It is a wonderful feeling to be playing with old teammates again. But I wish the game was a little longer,” said Pius.