CHENNAI : It has not been the easiest of times for them but Tamil Nadu’s Santosh Trophy squad is hoping for the best as they prepare to leave for the South Zone qualifiers in Kochi next week.Legal wrangles between the Tamil Nadu Football Association and the Chennai Football Association led to the CFA league not being held this year. For Jestes Antony, coach of the TN team, it meant that a valuable opportunity to scout players was lost. “That was a problem for us,” he said. “Because there was no CFA league, many good players went to other states to play and they were no longer eligible for us to select.”
The AG’s Office coach has been training with a group of probables for the last month. A lack of available grounds in Chennai has meant that the players had to train in Thanjavur. “We have been training since the 19th of last month,” said Antony. “In between, there was a gap because of inter-college matches. But now, over the past 4-5 days, we have been training again.“We were not able to get some grounds in Chennai,” he said. “And at present, it’s also raining heavily there. Here, we have many options, many grounds and colleges to choose from.”
Tamil Nadu has been handed a tough draw with hosts Kerala in the same group as them. Also not in their favour is the fact that they are going in with a young team — only a couple of players from last edition’s team will return this time. However, Antony is hopeful of putting up a good show.
“From last year’s team, there are only one or two players, the rest are new,” said Antony. “We are playing Andhra Pradesh in our first match, we’re expecting to win that. Kerala are playing in front of their home fans, so that’s a big positive for them. But we are upbeat. We are fielding players who have played in the CFA Senior Division before, so they have experience playing at a good level. There are a couple of players who were with Chennai City last year. We cannot say we’ll will, but we’ll certainly put up a fight.”
The team will leave for Kerala on Sunday before contesting their first match against Andhra on November 7. They will then take on Kerala in their second game two days later. Karnataka, Puducherry and Telangana The group toppers will qualify for the Santosh Trophy main round in January.