Reliving sweat, tears & glory for posterity

YouTuber Stephen Antony Kallarackal is interviewing footballers who have represented Kerala over the years so the tales of their exploits inspire the younger generation, reports A Satish.
Stephen Antony Kallarackal (right) with former India international U Sharaf Ali
Stephen Antony Kallarackal (right) with former India international U Sharaf Ali

PALAKKAD : Kerala, one of the hotbeds of football in India, finished in the top three of the Santosh Trophy for the first time in 1961. How many fans would have had the opportunity to hear one of those players talk about their exploits? Not many. Stephen Antony Kallarackal is striving to change that. For he is on a unique mission to interview past and present Kerala Santosh Trophy players so their achievements, and insights, inspire the younger generation.

So far, Stephen has interviewed 60 players who have represented the state in the national football championship over the years, including Dr Rajagopal P K from the 1961 team. He also holds motivational classes for trainees with various football academies, and uploads all of those on the YouTube channel Sparshanam Arts.“My aim is to motivate the younger generation to take up football not only as a recreational sport but as a character-building instrument,” Stephen says.

“I am therefore on a mission to meet the maximum number of players, coaches and sports teachers who have excelled in the game and brought laurels to our state and country.”A resident of Manikkassery in Palakkad district, the 57-year-old was at the Government Victoria College ground recently to hold a motivational session for children during the 20th anniversary celebrations of Talents Football Academy. “The chronicling of stalwarts’ lives will certainly inspire youngsters,” says M C Radhakrishnan, a retired physical education teacher who had served the Kerala team as a trainer.

“Most of those players had to struggle a lot to come up to the position they have now reached. The videos on football academies also create awareness among parents to send their wards at a young age to a professional coaching centre.”

Stephen has uploaded the interviews of former internationals like Victor Manjila, C C Jacob, M M Jacob, K P Sethumadhavan, T K Chathunni, N M Najeeb, C V Pappachan, Sharaf Ali, Jo Paul Ancheri and Abdul Hakeem, among others. The interview with T A Jaffer, the vice-captain of the 1973 Kerala team that won the Santosh Trophy for the first time, is another of his cherished efforts. Several of the players who gave Kerala its latest title in May, including captain Jijo Joseph, have featured on his show.While the passion and energy of the former stars remain contagious, Stephen says several players from the seventies continue to find it difficult to make both ends meet in their twilight years.

“They are getting a meagre pension of `1,800 to `2,000 per month. Only the players who were in government service are in a comfortable position. The government should step in to help struggling players,” he says.Drawing on the words of wisdom shared by the stalwarts of Kerala football, he says a lack of planning has been the bane of Indian football. “In the leading nations, a team is the outcome of 10 to 20 years of planning. But in India, we select a team after holding a camp before a tournament,” he says.

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