THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Mayor’s Cup football tournament which is ongoing in the city has given hope to budding footballers. The tournament was launched in 1997 when V Sivankutty was the mayor. It was an all-Kerala tournament back then, and it was won by the State Bank of Travancore.
“The initiative to restart the tournament was undertaken by Sivankutty. V K Prasanth, MLA, had agreed and made the required arrangements,” said M Rajeev Kumar, president, Thiruvananthapuram District Football Association (TDFA).
The tournament was initially supposed to be organised in August. But the flood forced the organisers to postpone the date. “Mayor K Sreekumar showed interest in organising the cup,” said Rajeev. The tournament started on November 24 and will go on till December 5 -- the dates given by the All India Football Federation. Twelve teams including those from other states are taking part.
The corporation has its own team -- TDFA Corporation XI. The team was trained by G Varghese, former assistant coach of the Indian Under-16 team and former secretary of TDFA. According to Varghese, the team consists of players who have not been selected for the Kerala University football team. Some of the players who played in U-15 and U-19 national football championships have also been included.
“Players from Mahatma Gandhi College, Kerala University and the Lakshmibai National College of Physical Education have been included. We have been practising for the cup from October 24,” said Varghese.
“The corporation used to have its football team 20 years ago. At that time, they used to play in the Thiruvananthapuram district league,” he said.
The matches being held at the Kerala University Stadium have been witnessing a decent turnout. However, the fact that the tournament is being played on a hard court is worrying team managements because it can cause injuries. Some of the teams, like Chennaiyin FC, which are not used to playing on hard courts had a tough time adjusting to the surface.
One solution was to develop the small stadiums owned by churches along the coastal areas. “The corporation can affiliate with the KFA to recruit new players and hire coaches and sports development officers. They also own a few stadiums in the city where they can train the players,” said a sports official.
During the 1980s, the city had several football tournaments at the inter-collegiate and national levels such as the Kerala Trophy. But presently, excluding the Mayor’s Cup, the GV Raja All India Tournament is the only other national-level tournament in the state. The former player hope that the revival of the Mayor’s Cup will signal the start of many tournaments.
“It will benefit the local teams if it is organised regularly. Intercollegiate, school, academy and club tournaments also need to be encouraged by the government for football to grow,” said Varghese. Gabriel E Joseph, a former Services player and former coach of the national senior and junior football teams, said: “A tournament like the Mayor’s Cup is necessary as local teams do not have any other tournaments to play. Such tournaments are also beneficial to the development ofthe reserve team of the I League and Indian Super League sides.” He added that more sponsors interested in developing football should come forward to organise more tournaments in the state.