THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For the past decade or so, there has been much clamour about the lack of football tournaments in Kerala. But what is even more unfortunate is that there is little or no chance for fledgling clubs in the state to participate in what little is left of them.
Take the case of the 11th G V Raja Memorial Football Tournament that is to kick off in the state capital on Thursday. The competition has just five teams from Kerala participating, the same number as the teams from Maharashtra.
To make matters worse, these five teams are State Bank of Travancore, Kerala State Electricity Board, AG’s Office, Kerala Police and Travancore Titanium - all departmental teams who have had one of their foot in the grave for quite a while now.
“What is the purpose of conducting such a tournament when its organisers cannot give the opportunity for clubs like ours,” asks Ebin Rose, coach of Kovalam FC who, along with Thrissur-based FC Kerala, had sought entry to the tournament.
But in their place, two teams christened Trivandrum XI and Kerala XI, that will be assembled days prior to tournament and disbanded when the full-time whistle blows on their campaign, have been introduced, for reasons best known to organisers alone.
This leaves managements of clubs like Kovalam to travel the length and breadth of the country looking for much-needed exposure.
“We have taken our age group teams to many tournaments in the past few years, but it is a process we cannot afford financially,” said Ebin.
FC Kerala coach Narayana Menon was also furious about the decision of the organisers. “We inquired to them of the possibility, but it was an invitational tournament and we were not invited,” said the former India under-16 coach.
“But, by doing so, what message does the authorities give to the young players here? That Maharashtra players are more preferred than them? It is a dangerous message nonetheless,” Menon said.
“Ask anyone which are the two teams that promote youth in Kerala. Answer will be Kovalam FC and FC Kerala,” he said. “Maybe it is that departmental teams who are considered traditional superpowers are starting to fear the younger clubs in the state,” Menon said.
Meanwhile, S Geervarghese, secretary of Thiruvananthapuram District Football Association, said that it was the decision of the tournament committee to pick the participating teams based on the quality of the sides.
“One of the main reasons for us to conduct this tournament is to promote the departmental teams that have provided job opportunities for Kerala footballers over the years,” Geevarghese argued.