CHENNAI:A brief glimpse at performances of Tamil Nadu in the Santosh Trophy shows a history of underachievement. They last reached the final in 2012, where they lost to Services 2-3. That was also the last of their two final appearances in the national football championship. Things have gotten worse for the 2016-17 edition, as they failed to make the final round, to be held in Goa in March.
And a chat with the state’s U-17 coach David Daniel, on the sidelines of the Khelo India football championships at the JN Stadium here on Friday, doesn’t inspire confidence of an upswing in fortunes. “The Khelo India event is the only one that the U-17 and U-14 players will be playing this year. After this, they will go back to their respective hometowns and continue with their studies. But given that we had just three days’ camp before the event, it’s been a good performance,” said David after his wards lost their 3/4th place play-off match against Kerala.
Given that the U-17 level is crucial towards building a solid core of players for future senior state teams, the fact that youngsters get just one tournament per year is not a good sign. With the U-16 I-League only having one team from the state, opportunities are limited for youngsters. David agrees. “Of course, they need to stay together and play more tournaments as a team to improve individually and as team players. But this is the schedule that we’ve been given, and can only do this much and prepare the players for whatever tournaments we do play,” he noted.
But all is not lost. “There will be scouts from various colleges and state association who’ll have come and seen these players. If a player has impressed a college like Loyola or SRM, he/she will be approached to join the college when they’re done with schooling. All under the sports quota, so a lot of things will be paid for.
“And if the footballer is approached by state officials, it’s even better as they’ll be sent to the sports hostel to train, and everything will be taken off. So all is not lost for these kids, but I do agree that more events will only benefit them,” he opined.
Some of these kids may still make it big, but the fact that they barely have a platform to showcase their potential is a cause for worry. How that is fixed is up to the powers that be.