Kochi, April 13 :
Football buffs in this soccer loving state of Kerala were elated with the news of cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar buying the Kochi franchise of the inaugural Indian Super League (ISL) football tournament that will be held in September-November this year.
ISL, an IPL-style football league, is being organised by IMG-Reliance in eight cities, Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Goa, and Guwahati.
Former India soccer captain and legend I.M. Vijayan was excited at the prospect of big-ticket football returning to Kochi, which was once the home of highly successful FC Cochin in the 90s.
“Football in Kerala has been dying and this good news is certainly going to bring back the glorious football days back to our state,” the 45-year-old Vijayan told IANS.
“This is going to be a tremendous opportunity for existing and former players as all of them can now give something back to the game, through this hi-profile tournament,” he added.
Kerala was once a powerhouse in Indian football and hosted some prominent tournaments like Sait Nagjee, Chackola Gold Cup, Mammen Mappilai Trophy and the G.V. Raja Tournament, which have now become defunct.
“The great Inder Singh used to tell me when I played for JCT Mills, that they loved playing in Kerala, and once they arrived they used to spend a minimum of two months, as there were hugely popular tournaments here,” recalled Vijayan.
Another former India international, Xavier Pious agreed with Vijayan.
“I have just returned today from a visit to the Holy Land and I hear the good news. My first reaction is this is going to give a major fillip to the game in the country and in Kerala,” Pious told IANS.
Former junior India captain P.P. Thobias, who played in the ’80s, however, wondered how many local players will make it to the Kochi team.
“Now the big question is how many Keralites will make it to these teams, and if it happens, then the long lost glorious days of Kerala football are going to get a second lease of life, so do the spectators,” said Thobias who is currently a deputy commandant with Kerala Police.