THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: "Without this football ground at Valiyathura, I would have been a fisherman. This ground has made me what I'm now," said Othallo Tabio who has played the I league for 13 years and was the former Santhosh Trophy player for Maharashtra. The football ground at Valiyathura that was 110-metres in length five years ago has now shrunk to mere 40-metres owing to sea erosion.
The ground has helped groom football players for the national team, league and university level tournaments. "We have met a lot of officials including the Sports Minister to protect the rest of the football ground but no action has been taken," said Othallo. Over 250 footballers who have played in various levels including the National Team and Santhosh Trophy have later become government servants.
The players including Steren, Thankachan, Charles, Edison, Reni Lawrence and Deepu from the coast have played for Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) of Indian Army team. Aji, Xavier and Mahindran have played for Border Security Force. Edison has played for Kerala police, Santhosh Trophy, Martin for Titanium team Santhosh Trophy, Xavier M F for Kerala police of Santhosh Trophy, Shaijumon for Santhosh Trophy.
As per Othallo, the youth at Valiyathura are slowly becoming a prey to drugs. "During our childhood, nearly 100 players could practice at a time in the ground. But at present, it has sufficient space for just about 20 players. There is nothing left in the coastal region to keep them occupied," he said.
"The football ground must be credited for my job in the Army through the sports quota," said Steran, an ex-serviceman who is a football coach at Valiyathura Football Academy. Shaijumon, who has played for Santhosh trophy, says Valiyathura was once famous for football. Football enthusiasts hope the government will take actions to save the last piece of 40-metre ground which could diminish soon.