MALAPPURAM: Generations of Malabaris have grown up playing on the ‘Kavaath Maithanam’ of Kottappadi, now known as the Malappuram Sports Council Stadium. Built first as a stud farm before Independence, it later became a march past ground for the British Army before finally going on to become a symbol of Malappuram’s football-centric culture.
The stadium, which had hosted a number of notable tournaments earlier and is likely to host even more in the future, has been nestled at the heart of a rather busy town, flanked by petty to big shops and trade centres. From a hawk-eye, it looks like a birdbath amid a pulsing town. “It has become a part of our life. Without its service, it’s doubtful if we would have had the kind of footballers we produced earlier. Look at the list of players: former internationals Moideen Kutty and Malappuram Azees, former Santosh Trophy star M R C Chekku and goalkeeper Manjakandan Aboobackar. They all had played on this ground and learned the football lessons from here. It keeps a rich legacy of players,” said K Bhaskaran, who has been care-taking the stadium for about five months.
The is heartthrob of Malappuram’s football development, which is now spruced up like a brightly-clad bride, had been maintained by the Revenue Department until the Malappuram District Sports Council took it over in 2010.
Fresh as a daisy after the renovation in 2014, the stadium is now all set to produce more footballers from the district. The inaugural tournament reported to have been hosted by the stadium is the Moidu Memorial All-Kerala Football Tournament in 1952, and the latest is the State Senior Football Championship, the first tournament organised after its renovation. In between, All-India Civil Service Tournament, Kerala Kaumudi Football Tournament and a slew of district and state football championships were also organised on the ground.
The District Sports Council, as part of its sports development programme in the district, had spent more than Rs 5 crore to finish off the whole beautification work which includes the grass turf, viewer’s gallery, players’ lounge, and fence among others. “The ground will pave way for the grassroots-level development of football. We have already launched a day-boarding camp system for students born between 2002 and 2004. They really make use of the opportunity every morning and evening,” said Sreekumar A, president of the Malappuram District Sports Council.
“Plans are also afoot to give training to kindergarten students. If we can set up a football academy for the kids, it would bring about a huge change in the football culture of Malappuram.”
However, Sreekumar added that the stadium is busy with tournaments and that could be a hindrance to holding more camps for small children. “We are looking forward to launching the programme soon, but the worry is when the stadium is going to be free,” he lamented.