Rubbing shoulders with the 1973 Santosh Trophy-winning Kerala team, veteran footballer and coach T V Joy was living a dream.
For, having spent nearly 20 of his most productive years playing as a forward for different teams in Mumbai, Baghdad, Saudi Arabia and Atlanta, he never had the opportunity to stake a claim in the Kerala team.
The 58-year old is over the moon that he could play at least an exhibition match involving the team coached by Olympian Simon Sunderraj.
“The match against the 1973 Santosh Trophy players is very close to my heart,” Joy said.
“The opportunity to share space with players like Xavier Pius, C C Jacob and T A Jaffar is a big honour. I also consider myself fortunate to have received the jersey for the match from the hands of the legendary Simon Sunderraj. That was an unforgettable moment.”
The Koothattukulam native, who is currently serving as the assistant coach of Sacred Heart Football Academy in Thevara, also scored a scorcher of a goal.
“Simon sir and Xavier Pius complemented me for the goal. They said it was like some of the goals scored in European leagues. I have always lived with the disappointment that I could never play for Kerala in the Santosh Trophy. When I see the adulation that these players get, I think of what could have been had I played my football in my own state. But as fate would have it, I had to go abroad to keep my family in good stead. Even then, I was determined to keep close to the game. So I found jobs in companies where they maintained good football teams,” he said.
His most memorable years as a player were while playing for the Central Brothers club in Riyadh, he added. He has clear views on what needs to be done to improve the football scene here.
“It is important that the authorities adopt the right methods to select and train youngsters at the grass root-level. The current manner of selection is very hurried and unprofessional. At times, a few hundred players turn up for trials and a team of 20 or 30 is named within a matter of a few hours. Often, good players missed out as they don’t get enough of the ball to show their skills. And once the team is selected, they are forced to play within a couple of days, without even getting to know how a teammate plays. Naturally, there won’t be any team combination during matches,” he explained.
Fitter than most youngsters he trains at the SH Academy, Joy never misses an opportunity to be involved with football, either as a player or coach, or organiser.
“It is great fun to be playing football. Recently, I played in a veterans’ match and the audience booed me when I missed an easy chance. But when I converted another opportunity, the same fans cheered me and credited me for my fitness even at this age,” he stressed. When time permits, he also coaches youngsters at Koothattukulam FC.
“Football is my life and soul. I will keep doing whatever I can to help develop football,” he said.