KOCHI: Sajin Thadayus and Anittan Antony, two promising footballers from the city were part of the under 19 team that secured runner-up position at the 65th National School Game Football Championship held in Andaman and Nicobar islands recently. The duo, who are studying in St Joseph’s Boys HSS are trained at Little Flower Football Academy, Manvila, run by the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum.
Playing at the national tournament was a first for Sajin, a regular in the under-16 and under-17 district teams. “I was quite nervous before playing our first match. Attending the practise sessions at the national camp prior to the tournament helped me perform well,” said Sajin. He has had a passion for the sport since his childhood. Hailing from Mariyanadu, Sajin started playing football from Class VI at a local club. However, things changed when he was selected in the trials conducted by LiFFA in 2015. “I didn’t know how to play well back then. I learnt the tactics and strategies after joining the academy,” he said.
Anittan who joined the football academy around the same time as Sajin has a similar story to tell. Coming from the fishermen community in Pozhiyoor, Anittan credits his coach Cleofas Alex for helping him develop his football skills.
The 19-year-old was one of the nine players from the academy to play for Prodigy FA in the I-League under 16 tournament in 2017. A fan of Croatian football player Luka Modric, he first began playing in Class V at Udaya Paruthiyur, a local club football club. According to Cleofas Alex, the head coach and technical director of the academy, one of the main aims of LiFFA is to identify football talents from the coastal areas of the city.
“The churches in every coastal village organise football tournaments from November till February,” he says. Despite having their own facilities including accommodation and practice grounds, most of the clubs are not registered under the Kerala Football Association. As a result, the talented players in thes clubs spend their time playing local tournaments.
“As of now, only eight to 10 clubs are registered under KFA. We want to identify the untapped potential of the youngsters and bring them to the limelight,” says Cleofas. The academy trains two batches of 25 players who are provided food, accommodation, medical insurance and transportation facilities.