KOZHIKODE: If the names of I M Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri and the likes are synonymous with the vibrant culture of Kerala football, then Nikhila Thumbayil could perhaps occupy the same role in the female section, a few years from now.
Having won Kerala Football Association’s the best player award thrice - in 2010, 2012 and 2014 - there is no doubting the credentials of the 19-year-old centre forward from Kundayithodu of Kozhikode district.
She is treading the same path stalwarts footballers from Kerala have walked on years ago.
Many defences have been torn apart by her strong running, superb control and curlers, which often find the back of the net. With a total of 10 goals in 15 national appearances so far, the amiable attacker has grown to be the envy of many aspiring footballers.
“I have always dreamt of having a career playing football. Though I have not yet started earning big money, I hope I can do so someday,”said Nikhila, smiling.
Nikhila started playing football at the age of nine, when she was a student at Naduvattam Upper Primary School, Beypore.
A girl who immensely loved football, Nikhila would often join the boys as they play some nice kick-about at the school ground.
While she says it was her intense passion for football that led her to be a player, the sprightly young girl also expresses her deep gratitude to former teacher Meenakshi, who realised her talent in the game during a scouting at school.
“She asked me to get admission to the Government Girls’ Vocational Higher Secondary School, Nadakkavu, which has a team for girls,” said Nikhila, who has played for India in seven different tournaments in all age categories - that is; under-14, under-17, under-19 and senior divisions.
Nikhila began her journey impressively, playing in the u-14 state team the very first year she started playing serious football.
Soon, she made it to the U-14 national team, for which she scored nine goals in a tournament attended by Jordan, Iran, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
She then joined the U-19 Indian team, touring many countries, including Jordan, where she scored the only goal against Bangladesh in the qualifying round of AFC U-19 championship.
Nikhila, a final year Bcom student at Marthoma College, Thiruvalla, is also seeking sponsors to go further in her career.