KOCHI: The Kerala University (KU) football team is on cloud nine after bagging the first position in the men’s category of the Khelo India University Games 2020 football tournament held at Bhubaneswar, Odisha, recently. The team coached by Dinesh Chandran was crowned the champions after beating Punjabi University, Patiala, via a penalty shootout in the finals. The fact that the KU team has won a national football tournament after 15 years also provided a morale booster to the players and the coaching staff.
The victory was not easy as the side had to face a number of obstacles during the course of the tournament. According to team’s manager, Jithin Jose P, the side had to play the final stages of the tournament without four of its members. An untoward incident which occurred in the quarterfinal stage led to four players being suspended for the semi final and final rounds of the competition. “The suspension of the players had come as a blow to our hopes of winning the tournament. We were forced to play without some of our core players,” said Jithin.
However, what was more heartbreaking for the team was a one year ban imposed on the four players barring them from all football competitions. “As per the decision of the organisers, the four players will not be able to play any match organised by All India Football Federation (AIFF), Sports Authority of India and Association of Indian Universities (AIU). We have approached Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju urging him to revoke the ban which might affect their professional career,” said Jithin.
Based on their impressive performance in the tournament, around seven players of the team have also received calls from I-League and ISL clubs such as Odisha FC, Atletico De Kolkata and East Bengal FC. “Five of our players are attending the selection trials of East Bengal scheduled for next month,” said Bijoy Varghese who is part of Trivandrum Sports Authority of India (SAI’s) football team.