THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Thiruvananthapuram had its glorious football days; once upon a time. Great teams like the University and Medical colleges and State Transport. Great players like Indrabalan, Vincent and Peter and sold-out championship tournaments like Badran Cup. Cheering crowds and above all a dedicated patron, Col Godavarma Raja. And then all of a sudden, it all changed. Games became big business. Players became commodities. Politicians became patrons. The little city of retirees, of government employees and of the academia lost its sheen.
Ten years ago two local State players organised a group of U-7 poor children and started kicking football on Vizhinjam beach. The two coaches brought the boys’ inherent talents up to professional skills and they started winning championship tournaments at the state and national levels. Today Kovalam Football Club has three teams: Seniors, U-18 and U-15. KFC Coaching Academy now has 140 boys and girls. Also the one and only football hostel offering free education, accommodation and food. Thiruvananthapuram still doesn’t have a football stadium. The few available are for multipurpose use, including public meetings, exhibitions, festivals and even fire-trucks parades! KFC approached state, city and village governments for land to build a single use football stadium, though in vain. Kovalam FC recently received the All India Football Federation’s permission to add five additional players to its squad for the AIFF Youth League for the 2017/18 season.
The Federation of Malayalee Associations of Americas, comprising over 70 Malayalee associations with 200,000 members in USA and Canada, meeting every two years in Kerala, recently donated Rs 1 lakh as a starter towards the stadium project. FOMAA promised to budget more in due course. Dr Shashi Tharoor, MP, has committed Rs 25 lakh. Prof. Kailath of Stanford University and Mathew/Sally Foundation have donated Rs 25 lakh each for the project. The estimate for the composite project-campus with a football school, stadium, hostel and club houses- exceeds Rs 3 crore. “Kovalam FC has miles to go to reach our goal of 20 children from economically weaker sections, graduating with a university degree and to develop an indigenous football team of high standard”, says Mr T J Mathew, the brain behind the venture.